Each year, during the week before Thanksgiving, the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign against Hunger and Homelessness co-sponsor National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. During this week, a number of schools, communities and cities take part in a nationwide effort to bring greater awareness to the problems of hunger and homelessness.
All this month, Kean University joined the cause by hosting a series of events dedicated to raising awareness and making a difference in the lives of others.
“Our goal is to provide the campus community with opportunities that promote active leadership,” Elizabeth Roba, managing consultant for Kean’s Center for Leadership & Service (CLS), who collaborated with various groups on campus to develop programs centered on awareness and action. “Active leaders are advocates who, in addition to volunteering their time and skills, have an awareness of the social issues facing our surrounding neighborhoods, and believe in the cause for which they volunteer.”
In keeping with their longstanding weekly tradition, dubbed PB&J, Be the Change at Kean University prepared more than 100 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other items that they then delivered to the homeless men, women and children at Newark’s Penn Station.
Be the Change, in collaboration with CLS, also organized a Poverty Simulation whereby students were guided through the experience of applying for, receiving and utilizing such services as unemployment, food stamps and other federally funded programs for individuals living in poverty.
“These events brought an element of experience to the campus community that they might not otherwise have been able to understand through classroom instruction,” added Roba.
Among the events that took place during the month of November were Hoops against Hunger, sponsored by the Greek Senate. The Office of Student Government also raised $2,290 for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey at their annual FoodBank Luncheon, while student organizers of PACKing Thanks were able to provide nine Kean University students with a box generously filled with all the trimmings of a Thanksgiving dinner, including a turkey. CLS also sponsored SNAP into FOOD presentation about supplemental nutrition assistance programs, the Hunger for Art kickoff and poetry slam, and volunteer opportunities with Habitat for Humanity and the Community FoodBank.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless: “Participating in National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week not only brings greater awareness to your community, but also helps to promote the national endeavor to end hunger and homelessness. The plight of those without a home can be both lonely and difficult. Addressing their struggles by organizing and participating in this week may bring greater solidarity and understanding, as well as promote future involvement…. It is imperative to dispel myths that label homelessness as someone else's problem or claim that an end to homelessness is impossible.”
“CLS upholds Dr. Martin Luther King's belief that: ‘Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve,’ said Roba. “We hope that these events will encourage the Kean community to take advantage of already-existing CLS programs, as well as inspire them to use CLS as a means of promoting their own ideas, events and causes.”