Campus hosts Poverty and Homelessness Week

Posted by Centre News in Campus, Community Service, News 27 Nov 2013

Insulated within a lush and well-lit campus, many see Centre as its own little island, untouched by problems of the world. However, there are many faculty, staff and students who work daily to educate and inform the campus community about serious issues, particularly last week, which was filled with events raising awareness about poverty and homelessness.

First in the lineup was a lecture slam at Monday’s lunch in the Campus Center. A variety of faculty and staff, including Professors Brett Werner, David Anderson, Tony Haigh, Lori Hartmann-Mahmud, Beau Weston, Kyle Anderson and Rick Axtell presented. President Roush, J.H. Atkins and Matthew Klooster also spoke, each sharing personal stories, provoking readings and eye-opening statistics on poverty and homelessness.

pov_home1All week long, a two-panel display was inside the Campus Center (right); each panel had a different statement written across the top that students, faculty and staff could respond to by writing their own thoughts below. The panel served as a public display where people could reflect on the issues of poverty and homelessness, as well as the components of their life for which they were most thankful.

The following evening, a poverty, homelessness and healthcare convocation was held in Newlin Hall. The discussion centered on the physical toll that social exclusion places on marginalized people.

The lineup of awareness events was planned by the campus group Community Action Reaches Everyone (CARE) and the Community Service and Religious Life offices. Two members of the CARE executive team, Katrina Ayoub ’14 and Jessica Brewer ’15, spearheaded most of the planning.

“As students at Centre, we often have the luxury of not having to deal with issues of poverty and homelessness on a daily basis,” Brewer explains. “Not only do we have an opportunity for higher education that isn’t accorded to most people in our world, but we can also rely on regular meals from Cowan and a warm bed to sleep in every night. Poverty and Homelessness Week is a way to bring these issues to the forefront of students’ minds.”

Brewer was particularly excited about a new element of this year’s events.

“This is the first year that we’ve incorporated a service aspect into Poverty and Homelessness Week,” she explains. “This is incredibly important for students, because it allows them to see firsthand how these issues affect our local community and what is being done—and how they can get involved—to ameliorate these situations.”

pov_home2Wednesday through Friday featured a World Market in the Ewen Room of the Campus Center (right). Here, members of the community could browse SERRV (Sales Exchange for Refugee Rehabilitation and Vocation) and Bead for Life fair trade items from all over the world. The proceeds of the items benefit impoverished artisans, farmers and communities around the globe. The world market also included an opportunity to donate $5 to the organization Cetana to purchase trilingual dictionaries for Burmese school children—an initiative pioneered by Assistant Professor of Chinese Kyle Anderson.

That evening, Combs Warehouse hosted an Oxfam American Hunger Banquet. Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organizations networked together in more than 90 countries as part of a global movement to eradicate poverty. Each person’s meal was determined randomly to parallel the randomness of poverty or prosperity into which people are born.

The week’s events closed with an Oxfam fast, where students donated their dinner meal to Oxfam. The proceeds of the fast were donated to typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines.

For Director of Community Service and the Bonner Program Matthew Klooster, the week was an important one for Centre students to experience.

“Poverty and homelessness are issues that impact all of our lives,” he says. “These systemic problems need to be and can be resolved through the thoughtful decision making, responsible voting, advocacy and compassion of this new generation of citizens.

“By caring about and, more importantly, doing something to resolve these problems,” he adds, “we will only work to rebuild and strengthen the fabric of our local communities and advance humanity into a new era of opportunity.”

Dr. Rick Axtell, Paul E. Cantrell Professor of Religion, agrees.

“It was heartening to see the energy and dedication that went into the week’s events, from service in local shelters, to giving, to consciousness-raising,” he says. “It will be important to continue these endeavors and to supplement them with advocacy.

Poverty and Homelessness Week was bookended by several other awareness and service events, including a service plunge at non-profit organizations that address poverty and homelessness issues in Danville, Lexington and Richmond, Ky. The weekend before and after also included two canned food drives, one initiated by the members of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and the other by Centre Democrats.

Learn more about community service at Centre.