This past Sunday’s student mass kicked off the 40th year Villanova students took part in Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, also know as “HHAW” (pronounced huh-haw). “We’re both proud and disappointed that this week is happening after 40 years,” junior nursing student and junior Head Chair Sarah Lamb said reflecting this year’s slogan “Forty too many.” “That hunger and homelessness have been prevalent for over 40 years, to me, it’s sad.”
The week-long event, now nationally observed, has Villanova roots. Father Ray Jackson, OSA, also known for launching the University’s Center of Peace and Justice Education, founded the week in 1975. Since then, the HHAW has expanded to over 500 campuses nationwide and partners with Catholic Relief Services, NCH, Project HOME, Back on my Feet and the Catholic Network of Volunteer Service.
Additionally, the event now includes other on-campus groups, like Habitat for Humanity, who are organizing HHAW’s first Housing Simulation.
The simulation, scheduled for today, is meant to allow participants the opportunity to step into the shoes of someone experiencing housing insecurity. Students are assigned characters affected by poverty and must make decisions in response to the simulated uncertainties associated with homelessness.
The simulation will be followed by the Solidarity Sleepout during which students will stay overnight on the Oreo in solidarity with those experiencing homelessness.
Those involved in the sleepout hope that it proves to be a resource for the community in raising awareness for the cause, but also that it serves as a time for careful reflection.
“I’ve learned a lot about struggles that I’ve been blessed enough to not have to experience,” Lamb said. “I hope to take time to reflect on my own place in the world and the my own privilege.”
Students involved in the organization have been collecting food for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Food Bank this week, including an online food drive, through yougivegoods.com, in which students can sponsor the donation of food items like cans of tuna and jars of peanut butter.
Tomorrow, partnering with Back On My Feet, a Philly-based organization that engages those affected by homelessness in running, HHAW will host a Hunger Run 5k on the Oreo.
In addition to the immediate impact HHAW is making in collecting donations and organizing events to spread awareness, this week has been a catalyst of inspiration for students looking to give back to their community.
“I’ve been really inspired by our community partners who are working so hard to bring an end to these issues,” Lamb said. “I’ve also been inspired by the different people I’ve met who are experiencing hunger and homelessness. In them, I’ve found a strength and a beauty that you don’t see everyday.”