In this season of Thanksgiving, Springfield College clubs united in a series of events to raise awareness for those less fortunate and in need. This week is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, and throughout the week and continuing during the next few days, clubs and the Office of Student Volunteer Programs have and will continue to raise awareness on SC’s campus.
“I think it’s important to bring awareness,” senior and president of Environmental Club Makina Itchkavich-Levasseur said. “I feel like sometimes we can forget about the little things in life like that, whether it be recycling or just grabbing too much food at a time.”
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week kicked off on Monday with a simple, but moving display.
From around 12 to 1 p.m., students and volunteers held cardboard signs near the center of campus with statistics about hunger and homelessness written on them. The effect of seeing students staring sullenly and holding their signs drew the attention of passersby, just as it was intended to.
“When you have a real person sitting or standing and holding the sign, people tend to notice a lot more than if we tacked it to a tree or stuck it on a window,” Director of Student Volunteer Programs Charlene Elvers said.
The next day, Itchkavich and the Environmental Club felt that it was their responsibility to continue an event started a few years ago by their departed treasurer, Melissa Dessilet, who graduated from SC last year. Dessilet started the Hunger Banquet at SC, which is sponsored by Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice, according to their website.
“The Hunger Banquet is an activity that simulates hunger on a global scale,” Elvers said.
“It’s something that kind of relates to the Environmental Club in the sense that we see how much food is wasted all the time,” Itchkavich added.
According to Itchkavich, the Hunger Banquet, which was held on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in Cheney Dining Rooms A and B, is an interactive event that requires the audience’s participation.
“The event puts the audience in the situation,” Itchkavich said. “So when you go in, you get a class card, and you get put in either lower class, middle class or upper class. Upper class is anyone who makes more than $12,000 a year.”
When Itchkavich first heard that last statistic, she said she was shocked, because that number applies to almost every SC student and faculty member. Yet in the banquet, the majority of the audience was grouped into the lower two classes to represent how the ratio is throughout the world.
“All of us here at the college pretty much are in the minority in terms of the world,” Elvers said.
After being split up into groups, the students were given meals based on their class distinction, with the upper class getting much better treatment than the lower classes. Several students, including senior and president of the Student College Outreach Committee Emma MacDougall, also read a script. The script talked about people Oxfam helped, but it also directly addressed the audience by asking them to participate. Sometimes the script led to an individual’s promotion to a higher class, while other times it led to a demotion.
MacDougall had her hands full Tuesday night, because her club was also sponsoring a documentary at 8 p.m. in Fuller Arts Center after the Springfield College Service Corps’ Peace Program at 7:30 p.m. SCOC showed The Human Experience after MacDougall was introduced to the film by a friend.
“It left me speechless, and I was like, ‘People need to see this,’” MacDougall said. “I don’t think people realize how large the world is and how much we have compared to how little so many other people have.”
On Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., students enjoying their lunch at Cheney Dining Hall were asked to stop by a table to build a quick, bagged lunch to donate to Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen. The lunches consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, a drink and cookies.
Throughout Wednesday and today, stations at the Union and certain residence halls were also set up as part of the Together Campaign’s Coin Drive to raise money to donate to the Gray House’s Food Pantry so they can provide Thanksgiving meals to those who cannot afford them.
Instead of asking for cash in the form of dollar bills, senior and Campaign Coordinator John Rice and the group’s members thought it would be more effective to ask for spare change.
“You don’t want to ask any college student to donate $20 when they’re probably in debt or have to scram for money,” Rice said. “Everyone probably has 25 cents or a couple coins lying around their car or around their room, so the hope is that people can just take a few moments to grab that small amount of change, and if a lot of people grab small amounts of change, it adds up.
“The hope is not only to raise money, but also to raise awareness of how people can do something small and have a big impact when they do it in a combined effort.”
In addition to the Coin Drive, the annual MCDI dinner is being held tonight from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The free, community-wide Thanksgiving dinner is co-hosted by the Massachusetts Career Development Institute and Springfield College.
The week’s awareness-raising events will conclude on Sunday with a second round of sandwich making, but this time at Holy Cross Church. Senior Michelle Mirti has been going since last school year to help make sandwiches at Deacon Bill Toler’s church. Toler is the Catholic Chaplain on campus.
“We bag two sandwiches with a drink and a banana,” Mirti said. “Then we drive them downtown to across from the MassMutual Center.”
After serving the sandwiches there, they take any extras to across the street from Friends of the Homeless Soup Kitchen.
“It’s refreshing to get off campus and help someone else instead of being in our little bubble all the time,” Mirti said.
Stepping outside that bubble of comfort is the first step to raising awareness about hunger and homelessness. Through events that have already taken place and those still remaining, clubs and the Office of Student Volunteer Programs have attempted to impart that awareness campus-wide in the hopes that everyone will have something to be thankful for this season.
Joe Brown may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org