Author: Lizeth Castillo
On Monday, November 12, students of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship kicked off the beginning of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week at Oxy with a discussion about why poverty is a constant problem in the world. The week’s events were sponsored by Intervarsity.
Student Intervarsity members and team leader and Spiritual Advisor Matt Taylor worked in conjunction with the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life to coordinate several discussions to bring poverty awareness to Occidental’s student body. Students met in the Academic Quad Monday afternoon to set up tents (equipped with cardboard boxes, pillows and sleeping bags) outside Johnson Hall, where they would be sleeping for the week. Members encouraged students to join in the event in the hopes they would learn from the simulated homelessness experience, and “see what it’s like,” Monica Espinoza (sophomore) said. Discussion continued on Tuesday and Wednesday night.
Taylor served as the facilitator for the Monday night discussion and, after introducing National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, proposed the calculation that about $130 is spent on each Oxy student each day in regards to the cost of yearly tuition and daily expenses. Taylor started the discussion by raising the question, “Why do you think that poverty is such a constant problem in the world?” Students were asked to convene in small groups and discuss their answers to this question, after which the topic was discussed with the whole group. Students responded that the large number of people living in poverty is a reason for it being a constant global problem. They also said that college students, who often try to be aware of global problems, have little money to give away.
Intervarsity also centered the night’s discussion on other questions such as, “How does God challenge and invite us to respond?” and “Where do you see religious people ignoring the poor and the hungry?” In addition to discussing a specific Bible verse, subsequent responses and social responsibility, students also used the time to connect, share, and convey personal scenarios.
Each year the National Coalition for the Homeless, and National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness co-sponsor awareness weeks at various schools, cities and communities one week before Thanksgiving, the time in which people tend to get more involved in volunteering at local homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Although several college campuses are participating in National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, the week is not being coordinated by the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship on other campuses.
“Spirituality deeply affects our identity and the events we put on—the way we understand the world,” Taylor said when asked about why Intervarsity chose to base this week’s events on specific spiritual concerns as opposed to questioning government involvement and policy.
Considering Occidental’s relatively low track record for actively involved spiritual community members, Taylor was surprised at the 32 student turnout. “People are more spiritually interested than the reputation,” Taylor said, later adding that, although Intervarsity members made up roughly two-thirds of the attendees, “we don’t want to do a bait and switch” and have students come out for one thing then get another.
More information about the National Coalition for the Homeless can be found at www.nationalhomeless.org.
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