Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Banquet Guests Feast on Awareness

Student groups co-hosted an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet on Wednesday night [in McShain Lounge]( as part of the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

Oxfam America, an international relief agency that focuses on social justice issues and the effects of climate change, hosts a leadership training program called the CHANGE Initiative each summer for college students. One of the events that CHANGE leaders organize around the world is the Hunger Banquet.

Noreen Shaikh (COL’12) and Seungah Lee (SFS’12), the two CHANGE leaders at Georgetown, began planning this year’s Hunger Banquet last spring. Student organizations such as Hoya Outreach Programs and Education, Educating Residents About Social Equality, as well as the Office of Residence Life and Campus Ministry contributed to planning the banquet.

Each attendee received a ticket with a new identity on it, placing him or her in one of three income groups. Guests assigned to the low-income level sat on the floor, while those in the middle-income group sat in chairs arranged around the low-income group. Guests in the high-level income group sat at an elaborately decorated table, complete with candles, wine glasses and fine china.

Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J. delivered the opening speech at the event.

“Studying food security issues is important, but we must move beyond concepts to contact; we must have direct contact with the materially poor and their struggles,” O’Brien said. “Only then can we really understand their reality. Only then will our hearts be moved to take action on their behalf and critically address structures that perpetuate cycles of hunger.”

According to statistics provided by Oxfam at the event, 1.2 billion people live in poverty worldwide, 842 million of whom also suffer from chronic hunger. Each day, 30,000 children die from hunger or other preventable diseases.

The speakers told guests that the high-income group seated at the table represented the 15 percent of the global population that makes more than $9,076 each year. The middle-income group represented the 25 percent of people around the world who earn between $912 and $9,075 each year. Guests sitting on the floor represented the low-income group, which earns less than $911 each year.

Nick Shaker (COL ’12), a member of ERASE and a participant in the program, found this demonstration to be particularly insightful.

“Even though we have been told it so many times before, it was striking to see [that] a large percentage of the world eats one small meal a day,” Shaker said. “Furthermore, hearing true stories about people in other countries made me realize how quickly one’s status and access to food can change.”

During the dinner, the high-income group was served a catered Italian meal. The middle-income group was directed to a buffet table. The low-income group received two containers of rice and disposable bowls, plates and cups next to a bucket of water on the floor.

Shaikh, a co-coordinator of the program, deemed it a success.

“After the event, I am certainly taking a moment to smile. After all, a lot of people put so much time and effort into making this event what it is. We believe in our goals and we’re passionate about the issue of world hunger,” Shaikh said. “When you put in all that work [necessary for] an event like a hunger banquet . seeing how it affects other people the same way it affected you is exactly the perspective and motivation I need to keep me going.”

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