Many people take for granted the many blessings that life has bestowed upon them, such as the gift of food and shelter. This realization dawns on me every time I look at the heaps of uneaten food gone to waste at Frank, the Edge and the Coop. Some people are not as fortunate as the average Colgate student; they do not have the opportunity of enjoying a warm, fulfilling meal in a comfortable environment that shields them from the harsh, icy breath of winter. It is hard for most Colgate students to consider the situation of those in need, especially since we have intense scholastic workloads, extracurricular activities and are on a pretty isolated campus far from many devastating realities. Personally, it never occurred to me that there was more beyond the lovely village of Hamilton and the aesthetically pleasing Colgate campus until I trekked three miles past campus. With each step that I took my heart plummeted as my eyes absorbed the melancholy sights of houses in desperate need of repair, tiny broken down shacks and isolated fields. Even though the city is far away and either the sight of homeless people shivering beneath the doorway of a vacated building or the sight of poor souls asking for loose change in order to be able to buy a morsel to eat is absent, this does not mean that the issues of homelessness and hunger cease to exist. In fact, they are all around us, even in the communities surrounding Colgate University. The week of November 14 is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Thanks to Colgate senior, Bianca Verrilli, a plethora of special events are already underway to educate students on these escalating issues and to show students ways in which they can make a difference. These scheduled events include a panel of speakers from the Community Action Program for Madison County (whose website is capmadco.org.) The Community Action Program is an “umbrella” organization that runs soup kitchens in Madison County and assists people who cannot afford proper nourishment. On Thursday, there will be a dinner that will include a meal of bread to symbolize the rising numbers of impoverished and homeless people throughout the nation, and games and prizes will be included in this event. Another interesting event to participate in will be the a capella concert that will feature the Dischords and the Resolutions. Students will have the opportunity to purchase t-shirts at the door and sign a petition regarding government legislation that will help support the battle against homelessness and hunger. In addition, a very eye-opening event organized by CAndOO members will take place on Saturday evening of that week at the ALANA Cultural center and will feature appetizing meals donated by local businesses. This event is called a “Feast and Famine Banquet” and people need only to pay one dollar at the door to get in. However, there is a catch. Before entering the banquet, participants are asked to reach into a jar that contains small slips of paper, representing the worlds population. One third of these slips represent those in the world who do not have enough resources or money to purchase adequate amounts of food. If a student happens to choose one of these slips he or she must keep on trying by paying another dollar up, to three dollars, until that person can enter. All proceeds from the week, including that gained from plastic money containers that were distributed to local businesses, will be donated to the Friendship Inn. The many events of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week are sponsored by the Colgate Hunger Outreach Program. This diligent group of student volunteers deal with both local and global hunger issues. Locally, these selfless students take time off from their busy schedules to restock the shelves at the Food Cupboard (a place where people in need go to acquire food. They also help at the local soup kitchen in the Friendship Inn and save uncooked, already prepared food from Frank Dining Hall and bring it to the Inn. The Colgate Hunger Outreach Program strives for at least one fundraiser and canned food drive each semester. Most importantly, it spreads awareness across campus and local communities, which will be especially seen, in the events of the upcoming week.
Another spectacular program that makes a statement for awareness and change on Colgate’s campus is Habitat for Humanity. The mission of this international program is to provide low-income housing and substantial living conditions for families who are not labeled as poor by the government but still struggle to make ends meet. Local groups are constantly on the lookout for families who are in this kind of situation. Colgate’s chapter, in particular, works on weekly projects for approximately six hours every Saturday. So far this semester the Colgate chapter has assisted an elderly man in the construction of two apartments. Junior John Drymon, head of the Colgate chapter, recalls one very poignant experience during his Habitat experience in which an eight-year-old girl with a developed mental disability and her family needed a new place to live, since the child’s medical equipment exceeded the space of their already congested apartment. He remembers how gratified the young girl’s parents were and how each and every Habitat project is able to bring joy into peoples’ lives. Habitat provides interest-free housing and sweat equity. This means that the people whose home is being constructed have to help throughout the process and pay for supplies, electricians and other services, but they do not have to pay any interest or manual labor; volunteers put up the framing, the insulation and dry walls. During the upcoming week, students should be on the lookout for a table advertising Habitat for Humanity at the Coop where they can find out about future projects. Drymon is motivated to raise $ 10,000 by next semester so that the program can travel during spring break with Habitat International and lend a helping hand in Cabarrus County, NC.When asked about what why he is so passionate about this altruistic program, Drymon responded with a sincere smile. “It is a neat experience to begin building a home and to see it constructed till completion,” Drymon said. “You do not just get to share the family’s joy and gratitude at the end, but you also are presented with the opportunity to see all the effort that you and other volunteers have put in.” Drymon believes that students should become involved with Habitat for Humanity not only because it he feels it is a moral obligation to give back to one’s community, but also because it is a rewarding and thrilling experience of hard work and teamwork culminating in something spectacular. Students should take the opportunity this week not only to find out more about Habitat for Humanity and the Colgate Hunger Outreach Program, but also to become aware of the devastating issues that effect local areas around Colgate’s campus. Remember, it takes only one person to make a difference, but a whole bunch to create a lasting and memorable achievement in the combat against homelessness and poverty.