As I entered the Interfaith Chapel, I was given a ticket with my life story on it I am a middle-income girl from India named Dully. My father beats my mother, but my mother is strong and has joined with other ladies in the community to catch fish.
The river-level room of the Chapel was cleared for the International Living Center’s Hunger Banquet on Monday night. The purpose of the banquet was to display in striking detail the problems of world hunger. Participants were divided randomly into three income groups and were assigned appropriate conditions.
As a middle-income citizen I was fortunate enough to enjoy scattered chairs in the middle of the room. To my right, a few high-income people whose tickets listed for them a more fortunate future than mine sat at a proper table with chairs, and on the floor to my left the poor community had to sit on the floor. Barriers were set up between us and the other income groups students who dressed as guards made sure that we didn’t illegally move up.
As people entered, there was a curiosity in the air what’s your story? Why do I have to sit over here? I probably won’t get anything to eat will I? Soon we are all in character. ‘I own a piece of land!” someone exclaimed. ‘Does anyone want to start a co-op?”
When ILC’s Hunger Banquet began, President of ILC and senior Ethan Green talked about his experiences in Malawi. His host mother went to pump water from a well multiple times a day and then they had to boil the water before they could drink it. Struck by these extreme living conditions, Green decided to do something about it.
‘I decided to culminate my senior year by hopefully inspiring people to do something about extreme poverty,” Green said.
Green then introduced Dawn Marshall-Hosier, a friendly face and favorite Dining Services employee, who knows what hunger feels like.
‘I have been hungry and without a home through no fault of my own,” she said. ‘I know everybody is here, but we never know what the future holds.”
Her family used to live in the U.S. Virgin Islands before a hurricane wiped out their homes. Thankfully, after a few days, Dawn and her family were rescued by the National Guard and brought to Rochester.
‘While our government has programs to help those affected by tragedy, others are not so
fortunate,” Dawn said.
‘Just to see you here, mobilizing and doing something about hunger is awesome,” she concluded with a thumbs up. She then introduced Dean of Admissions Dean Burdick who talked for a while about the startling disparities between the ‘haves” and the ‘have-nots.”
Burdick spent a lot of time talking about using our higher education for greater good.
‘This is not a problem of science,” Burdick said. ‘It is not a problem of lack of food. It is about a misdistribution of wealth and resources. There are some wonderful solutions going on, [including] micro loans in Pakistan and India.”
After the speeches, it was time to eat.
The lower class people were given plates of rice to share. They could only drink dirty (food colored) water. ‘It’s kind of depressing,” one Vietnamese farmer said, as people passed the cold rice around in disgust.
Some of the poor are willing to entertain the higher classes in exchange for pasta. Others try to storm the barrier to steal food. Someone else manages to beg for food from the middle class. We in the middle class were lucky enough to have a decent bowl of rice and beans. But the upper class people got warm pasta with sauce, organically grown salad and apple juice.
‘It doesn’t have to be this way,” Green said. ‘In hopes of a sweet, happy ending there will be dessert for everyone.”
All in all, about 50 students from a variety of campus groups gathered on Monday evening to learn more about world hunger. The International Living Center, Catholic Newman Community, UR Hip-Hop, Students for Interfaith Action and UR Hillel sponsored the event.
‘I don’t think that things go wrong and stay that way. I believe that we endure and we try to correct things,” Burdick said. ‘If you ever have the opportunity to use your higher education to do good outside of Pittsford, N.Y., think about doing that. I have never met a physician who has not said that is the most rewarding part of their jobs.”
Sahay is a member of the class of 2010.