Hunger week aims to ease poverty

Lindsay Shoff

Funds raised at the University rarely have a direct benefit on a student or on other people with whom the student has had contact, but this year’s 32nd annual Father Ray Jackson’s “Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week” profits will do just that.

And this trip will take the money around the world.

HHAW’s donations will go to the Waslala region of Nicaragua, an area where graduate Matt Nespoli (’04) traveled on two separate break trips, and to the Sudan region of Africa, where junior Philip Akol lived as a teenager.

Oxfam America, a non-partisan organization working against global practices and policies that keep people in poverty, has organized efforts to provide medical care and clean drinking water for refugees in the Sudan, a place that the United Nations is calling “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

There, over one million people have fled their homes, and hundreds of thousands of refugees have set up camp in the country of Chad.

“HHAW always donated part or all of the money collected throughout the week to Oxfam,” senior co-chair Katie DiPerna said.

Associate director of Campus Ministry and Peace and Justice Joyce Zavarich added, “Villanova University was the first university to work with Oxfam to establish a Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Since then it’s become a major event on college campuses across the U.S.”

The HHAW committee, composed of 40 students, chose to donate specifically to the Sudan project because of Oxfam’s intensive work in the region.

Waslala was also chosen because of Villanova’s ties to the region. Founder of the program “Water for Waslala,” Villanova graduate Matt Nespoli currently works on the program that purchases water filtration systems for villages that do not have clean ones.

The University’s celebration of HHAW began Sunday with a student speaker and information tables on hunger and poverty issues at all evening Masses and a keynote speaker on Monday night.

The effort is a tangible expression of the Catholic social teaching to create a preferential option for the poor and focus on education and awareness, fundraising, unity of faith and praxis and a deep understanding of Augustinian ideals.

Dr. Gilbert Buckle, Monday night’s speaker, visited the University as part of a four-week speaking tour on behalf of National Catholic Health Service, where he currently serves as director of their work in Ghana, Africa.

He discussed their efforts to establish church-initiated HIV and AIDS care and support programs.

Thursday night’s program included an advisor from Catholic Relief Services, Ian Gary, who spoke on the negative impacts of oil and mining industries on the poor in Africa.

Many annual activities also took place throughout the week, including the Hunger Run, the International Fair Trade craft sale, bread and soup luncheon, Faces of Homelessness panel, the Hunger Banquet, Fast Day and the sleep-out.

“The hunger banquet is always a favorite and really helps students to gain a better understanding of the significance of the worldwide problem,” DiPerna said. “It illustrates the uneven distribution of wealth by placing people in the first, second or third worlds.”

Sophomore co-chair Emma Stewart said, “The hunger banquet and sleep-out provide an interactive experience to acquaint students with the disparity of wealth and homelessness.”

Additionally, throughout the entire week, Bread for the World volunteers petitioned students to write letters to their state’s senators to protest the lack of funding President George W. Bush promised to contribute to anti-poverty organizations through the Millennium Challenge Account.

The Penny Challenge also took place in the Connelly Center, where different organizations competed to raise the most change. Cans were also collected throughout the week as part of HHAW’s second food drive.

“We’re aiming for 6,000 cans this year – one can per student,” says fellow co-chair, senior Jenny Egg. “We have a better plan this year on how to get more cans than last year.”

A new addition to this year’s lineup of events is the play performed by Villanova Student Theatre (VST) “Nickled and Dimed,” based on the best-selling book by Barbara Ehrenreich.

“This is the first year Peace and Justice has worked with VST and it’s a different and more creative way to get the week’s message across,” DiPerna said.

Bread for the World petitioner Julia Park, a senior, commented on the noted in reference to the sleep-out, “We’re not trying to punish people. We just want them to be aware.”

She added, “We’re not just citizens of the U.S., but the world.”