Students fight against poverty

Kathryn Drew

The Annual Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week events kicked off on Sunday with Masses focused on the cause in the St. Thomas of Villanova church. Started by Rev. Ray Jackson, O.S.A., Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is now in its 36th year. The dual goal of the week is to raise money for Oxfam and Catholic Relief Services as well as awareness about global hunger. Last year the committee gave $13,000 to CRS for the Iraqi refugee trauma program as there are many people displaced by the war in Iraq. After the success last year, this year is shaping up to be even better.Before the start of the week, members of the Classroom Presentations Committee talked to students in over 65 classes about global hunger.The hunger run on Monday was the first major event of the week, and drew more than 100 runners, a huge increase compared to last year’s 50. The run was prefaced by festivities at the Oreo, including music and a raffle. The raffle boasted prizes such as gift certificates from local businesses and attire from the University Shop.On Monday night, Villanova hosted the keynote speaker for the week, Candice Harris, advocacy program officer for CRS. Over 70 people showed up to hear her speak about the causes of global hunger, especially rising food prices, and the effects it has on the population. In some places in the world, people spend 80 percent of their income on food, compared to Americans, who only spend about 10 percent. With rising food prices, this gap is ever increasing. Harris focused on the global food crisis in Ethiopia and drew on her own experiences with the impoverished country.On Tuesday, the Bread and Soup Luncheon was hosted in the Villanova Room. This event was geared toward giving up a more enjoyable lunch in order to be in solidarity with the poor. At night, the Hunger Banquet took place in the East Lounge, the Hunger Banquet. People from across campus gathered together to participate in the event.”The Hunger Banquet, which is a simulation of income disparity, serves to bring awareness and reflection on hunger,” said Bridget Reilly, classroom presentations chair.The banquet began with a skit showing the reality of a soup kitchen. Then, participants drew slips of paper at the start of the dinner that told them their income level and back story. Everyone was then instructed to take on a persona based on their given social class. Upperclass people were served four-course meals, while lowerclass people ate on the floor. “We really encourage people to say what they feel,” Amanda Javaly, Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week Chair said. Feedback is considered one of the most important parts of the exercise.Yesterday night the sleepout commenced. This is a three-part event, including a “Faces of the Homeless” presentation by the National Coalition for the Homeless, reflection time in St. Rita’s and finally a group sleepout at the Oreo. The presentation panel included many homeless and former homeless people. Today, students are encouraged to fast during lunchtime in order to feel more at one with the poor during this holiday time. Many students have already donated meals to this cause. Dining Services will reimburse the committee for meals donated, and students will not be able to use their meal plan during lunchtime today.Tomorrow, many of the chairs, as well as volunteers, will be going to SHARE in Philadelphia.There, the participants will prepare Thanksgiving boxes for poor people in the city. Other events include can collections, the penny challenge, winter clothing donations, craft sales and food drives.As everyone prepares to fill their stomachs on Thanksgiving, the committee says it is important to remember those who do not have that luxury. “There is enough food in the world to feed everyone; the problem is that it is ill-distributed,” Javaly said. Javarly says that more important than the thousands of dollars Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week raises every year is the awareness it brings.