Students, faculty and staff shine light on hunger and homelessness

November 16 through 23 was National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, a yearly awareness campaign co-sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness. At Saint Joseph’s, students, faculty and staff orchestrated a series of events to raise awareness across campus for these social and economic plights.

Students kicked off the week on Friday, November 15, when they met for the Shak-A-Thon: a night spent sleeping outside with minimal shelter. The event was organized by the college’s Habitat for Humanity Club president, senior Krista Ethier-Whitmore.

“People may think that society’s problems are too big to take on,” said Ethier-Whitmore. “But even if an act is simple, like the Shack-A-Thon, it generates empathy among people, and it makes me feel like I’ve done something.”

Participants in the Shak-A-Thon raised $128 from members of the campus community in addition from friends and family members of students. As the club’s president, Ethier-Whitmore will direct half of the proceeds to Catherine’s Cupboard Food Pantry in Standish and the other half to Preble Street community center in Portland. The organizations assist the hungry and the homeless.

On Tuesday, November 19, there was a showing of the 2012 documentary “A Place at the Table.” Directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush, the film follows the struggles of three Americans who lack the necessary funds to obtain a sufficient amount of food.

The on-campus screening was followed by a Q & A session with two representatives from the Maine Hunger Initiative and one representative from Homeless Voices for Justice, said Kathryn Cody, Saint Joseph’s coordinator of social justice and leadership. “The event allowed not just for a documentary viewing, but challenged viewers to really think about the issues being posed and to converse about the issues at hand with people who are working in the area of hunger and justice,” Cody said.

Homeless Voices for Justice returned to campus for a November 21 panel discussion. Sharing their experiences were two advocates who were once homeless. “The event provided an important opportunity to challenge stereotypes,” said Cody. “It is easy to make assumptions about people who are hungry or homeless. But until we actually look a person in the eyes and really listen and hear their stories, we should not assume anything about their life.”

On the evening of November 23, Student Activities hosted a screening of the 2011 documentary “Give a Damn?” In the film, the subjects (director Dan Parris, Rob Lehr and David Peterka) travel across three continents, attempting to live on just $1.25 a day, to explore the reality of poverty and hunger. “The program brought this global and local issue front and center,” said Morgan Rocheleau, Saint Joseph’s director of student activities. “It educated everyone about the issue, but it also gave opportunities to show how students could get involved and help.” The film’s three subjects, Parris, Lehr and Peterka, were on hand that evening for a Q & A session after the screening.

The week also saw students, faculty and staff come together for a Thanksgiving Interfaith Prayer Service in Healy Chapel on November 20; a Thanksgiving food drive coordinated by staff from Catherine’s Cupboard and the college’s Mercy Center ran throughout the week; and a faculty lecture on “The Hunger Games,” examining similar social and economic issues in light of modern, real-life inequities, was held on November 18.

December 11, 2013
Contact: David Svenson at 207-893-7723 · dsvenson@sjcme.edu