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​Students sample a meal at the Oxfam Hunger Banquet.

(Photo by Saadia Ahmad ’14)

​Students Mark Poverty Awareness Week

Providence, R.I.--One hundred students marked Poverty Awareness Week this fall in a variety of ways, from decorating shoes in a benefit for charity, to learning about the need for affordable housing, to sharing plates of rice while sitting on the floor at a “hunger banquet.”

Campus Minister Richard Lumley said the goal of Poverty Awareness Week, which is sponsored annually by Campus Ministry, is to generate “discussion and action” in light of the pressing issue of global poverty.

“Through our events we sought to promote the common good, affirming the Church’s belief that everyone--including the rich and the poor--belongs to the human family and shares a common dignity,” said Lumley.

The first event, “Style Your Sole,” provided shoes to children in need while also supporting the work of TOMS Shoes, a socially conscious corporation.

About 35 students gathered in the Campus Ministry Center and used art supplies to decorate plain white shoes they had purchased from TOMS, a California-based business that donates one pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair that it sells. Art Club members were on hand to assist, and the student band “The Warning Signs” played background music.

The event was sponsored by Social Justice Advocacy. Coordinator Julia C. Tully ’12 (Ardmore, Pa.) said “Style Your Sole” has been held before on campus, but this was the first time it was a Campus Ministry program.

“It brought a lot of students together who may not have known each other,” said Tully. “Freshmen through seniors were represented, and students sat down together to paint and decorate with people they didn’t already know. It was a great atmosphere. A lot of students who hadn’t ordered shoes came to hang out and do homework, and then expressed interest in participating in our next event.”

Supper, Hunger Banquet also held

The second event was a free “Solidarity Supper” held in the Campus Ministry Center. During the meal, three staff members of the Providence affiliate of Habitat for Humanity discussed access to affordable housing in Providence, the United States, and the world, Lumley said.

The supper was an opportunity for volunteers in this year’s Habitat for Humanity Spring Break trips to learn more about the organization before participating.

Finally, S.T.O.P. Hunger and Amnesty International co-sponsored the “Oxfam Hunger Banquet,” advertised as “a new way to experience dinner,” at ’64 Hall in the Slavin Center. It enabled participants to see in a vivid way the global inequality of food distribution, Lumley said.

Colleen E. Reilly ’12 (East Sandwich, Mass.), head of the S.T.O.P. Hunger group, said about 20 students made a $2 donation to Oxfam, the world hunger organization, to participate in the banquet, which was catered by Amos House.

Each student was randomly assigned to one of three groups reflecting income disparity in the world, “and that determined what they would get to eat that night,” said Reilly.

Those in the smallest group, representing the highest-income earners, sat in chairs at tables and used utensils to eat a full meal that included pasta and bread, Reilly said. The middle-income group also fared well, eating rice and beans.

But those in the low-income group, the largest group of all, sat on the floor. They were given water and rice to eat and had to share from a single plate.

“Sometimes people in the low-income group will say, ‘I don’t want rice. I’m not eating that,’” said Reilly. “And we tell them, ‘Then you’re not eating.’”

Katrina Lipinsky, an Amnesty International coordinator, showed a video clip during the dinner about poverty and hunger in America, specifically dealing with schoolchildren, “so it hit home for the students,” said Reilly. 

“I really appreciated their presence considering that it was such a hard time due to midterms,” Reilly said. “I hope the event helped people to understand the problems, and they will share those insights with people that they know.”

--Vicki-Ann Downing

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