LAURINBURG — St. Andrews University has a long-standing commitment to developing servant-leaders. In addition to helping students gain knowledge in the classroom the University’s Student Activity Union holds various activities to help student gain a new perspective — two such events were held this spring, the Cardboard City and Hunger Banquet.
The events were held at St. Andrews after a group of students attended the National Association of Campus Activities Conference (NACA).
“The idea was first introduced following our attendance at the NACA conference fall semester,” said Jennifer Roberts, student activities coordinator. “Patrick Doyle, Spencer McAfee and Rebeccah Yuswak brought the idea up at an activities meeting and it was unanimously supported.”
The first event on the calendar was the hunger banquet.
“When guests arrive at the Hunger Banquet they draw tickets at random that assign each to a high, middle or low-income tier,” Roberts explained. “The 20 percent in the high-income tier are served a sumptuous meal, the 30 percent in the middle-income tier eat a simple meal of rice and beans and the 50 percent in the low-income tier help themselves to small portions of rice water. A master of ceremonies reads a script to guide participants through the interactive event. Finally, guests are invited to share their thoughts after the meal and to take action to right the wrong of poverty.”
Yuswak spearheaded the effort from the student side.
“My goal was to get many people to come out and catch a glimpse into what it is like for people around the world that don’t always have access to food as we do here on campus,” she said. “I also wanted to provide information about the many people locally who also are not as fortunate as we are to eat on a regular basis. And I wanted the students to reflect more on how fortunate they are before throwing away plates full of food in the cafeteria.”
The impact was immediate for those in attendance.
“The global standards for rich and middle class were much lower than I expected – many of those considered well off are below the poverty line in the United States,” said Doyle.
Yuswak agreed, “It was really crazy to hear that people who are considered in high class around the world make just a little bit more than I did at my summer job.”
Just a few days later the group put on a Cardboard City event.
“Cardboard City is an event during which participants get a small taste of what life can be like for those who are homeless,” said Roberts. “Participants were given a cardboard box which will serve as his or her home for the night.”
The event was held in March when the weather was still chilly, providing participants with a truly representative experience.
“My goal for Cardboard City was to have students here on campus get a glimpse of what it is like to not have a comfy bed and a temperature-controlled roof over their heads,” Yuswak said. “I also wanted them to come together as a student body and bond throughout the night because just as the event is to raise awareness, it is also about bringing people together in unity.”
Many of the participants were not prepared for what the experience turned out to be.
“I always enjoy sleeping outdoors but it was a struggle on such a cold night,” said Doyle.
All the students believe that the experience was a good one despite the weather conditions.
“The most eye opening experience was that although it was cold out, the box did help keep me warm but it was not comfortable to sleep on the cement and I cannot imagine doing it for more than one night,” said Lauren Guenther, one of the students to accept the challenge.
“Even though the night was chilly and there wasn’t a great turn out, inside my box, it was pretty warm,” Yuswak added.
The events made enough impact that plans are already underway for the coming year.
“I consider them a success and hope they will happen again next year on a larger scale,” said Doyle.
Yuswak agreed saying, “Next year I hope others on campus take the initiative to put on one or two events like this on campus. They didn’t cost a lot of money to put on and were fairly easy to organize. I hope that events like this continue on this campus for many years and that the students become more involved with giving back to the community – not just on MLK Day.”
To put together the events, St. Andrews partnered with a community organization.
“We worked with Church Community Services to raise funds and donations to raise awareness of hunger on a local level, as well as consider the problem of hunger and poverty on a global level,” Roberts said.
For information about Church Community Services or to make a donation, call 910-276-8330 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The office is located at 108 Gill Street. They are open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm.