Father Ray Jackson’s annual Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week kicked off Saturday, and continues until Friday Nov. 22 with events, donations and speakers. Imperative to the Villanova mission and one of the school’s biggest advocacy events all year, HHAW is a campus-wide event that seeks to raise awareness about hunger and homelessness in the Villanova community as well as in the entire country and throughout the world.
It is easy to forget that hunger and homelessness are an everyday reality for so many people. In the greater Philadelphia area alone, there were approximately 12,000 homeless people in 2012, and there is not much reason to believe that number has dropped in the past year.
The goal of HHAW is simple: to promote solidarity with the poor through service and education, increasing awareness and understanding of the issues of poverty that exist in our community, our country and across the globe.
HHAW began at Villanova in 1975 when Father Ray Jackson and accompanying Villanova students recognized the power of education and voice. Since then, this coordinated event has spread across the nation to over 500 schools and communities that actively participate in educational programs, fasts, sleep outs, community service events, campaigns and congressional contacts. As a proud founder, Villanova is honored to host the oldest HHAW in the country.
Now, HHAW is one of the school’s most widely organized events and has long been advocating for the basic needs and rights of the poor all around the world.
This year’s HHAW slogan is “resolve to fight poverty.” The week got started with the two-day Super Fresh Food Drive in Havertown. Last year, the food drive collected 2,700 non-perishable items, and this year, Mary Lister and Meagan McCullough—co-chairs for the Food Drive committee—sought to exceed this amount.
Together, along with 50 plus volunteers, they coordinated and ran the food drives at Donahue Market, Second Story and the local grocery store, Super Fresh.
In addition to the food drives, students are encouraged throughout the week to donate one of their lunch meals. The Food Drive committee puts together Bread and Soup lunches with the donated meals and sends them to people in need.
“All of our can donations will be given to the food kitchen owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and the registration money from the Hunger Run will also benefit the hungry of Philadelphia,” McCullough said.
Along with the food drives and meal donations, there were multiple other events planned for HHAW.
On Tuesday, keynote speaker Emily Wei, CRS Global Food Security Policy Advisor, gave a lecture “Using Technology to Feed the World,” which discussed the possibilities of using modern advancement to decrease hunger problems.
Today is the Fast Day, where students can donate their lunch meals and then volunteer in the CRS Helping Hands Project. This project attempts to pack and send 10,000 meals off to Burkina Faso, a small, poor country in West Africa.
After the Fast, there is the Solidarity Sleep Out at the Oreo, beginning at 9:30 p.m. This night provides the unique opportunity to experience what it would be like to spend a night sleeping outside.
Today is also the NCH Faces of Homelessness Panel.
This panel discussion is one of the most important events all week. It allows students to hear in person from people who have lived in the streets and to listen to their stories and ask questions. Moreover, it provides perspectives on what it is like to be hungry and homeless on a daily basis, as well as how people both fall into and climb out of these situations.
Tomorrow is the Thanksgiving Dinner Drive. Students can drop off meals and donations in Connelly from 9-11 a.m.
Afterward, there is the Hunger Run 5K “Back on My Feet” starting at 3:30 p.m. at the Oreo. Register online at Villanova Tix or at the event.
“Education, responsibility and solidarity,” McCullough said. “It is important to look outside the bubble and realize that with privilege comes the ethical responsibility to be proactive about promoting change for our neighbors.”
HHAW stresses the inherent dignity of all human beings and the responsibility as privileged individuals to make a better society and life for all, she added.
“One year we asked a couple dressed head-to-toe in Eagles sweatsuits to donate some cans,” Lister said. “They came out of the store with a grocery cart stacked full of cans, all for us. I almost cried, it was so awesome. I can’t wait for moments like that.”