Student project brings churches, non-profits together
12/12/2008 4:02:45 PM
LYNCHBURG â€" Randolph College global studies students are accustomed to examining issues such as hunger in other parts of the world. But Jennifer Abbassiâ€™s â€śGlobal to Local Studiesâ€ť course is giving them a taste of how worldwide issues like hunger affect people just blocks away.
More importantly, the course is providing them with the opportunity to do something about it.
During a year of economic turmoil, food supplies at food banks across the Lynchburg area reported falling donations and rising needs. As students visited the various churches and food banks, they saw first-hand the needs of those in the city that depend on these services. They also saw how many churches struggled to meet the growing demand for food.
The class spent much of the fall semester collecting data, observing, and interviewing churches that operate food ministries in designated clusters around the Lynchburg area.
â€śThe idea wasnâ€™t to start more food ministries,â€ť said Abbassi, a political science and global studies professor. â€śInstead, we wanted to help strengthen the programs that these churches and groups already operated.â€ť
This is the second year Randolph students have conducted the Lynchburg Hunger Project. This year, the collegeâ€™s partnership with the Lynchburg Homeless and Housing Coalition has grown, and students worked diligently with the group on the project.
The goal of this yearâ€™s project was to provide data and research that allowed churches and other non-profit organizations across the area to begin a dialogue on ways to coordinate and systematize their food ministries. In December, those conversations will begin as several churches and non-profit groups meet at Randolph with students and members of the Homeless and Housing Coalition.
â€śItâ€™s so easy to study any global issue like food insecurity by spinning the globe and looking at the other side of the world,â€ť Abbassi said. â€śBut itâ€™s also educational to see what is happening in your own community. This project has gotten our students out and made them a part of our community. Theyâ€™ve seen what hunger looks like and what community building looks like. It prepares them for the real world.â€ť
The students took the data they had collected from the churches and compiled and analyzed it, identifying the different models used in food ministries locally. The goal is to allow churches share with one another what works and what doesnâ€™t and to help them find ways to work together in order to meet the needs of the community.
â€śThe most important lesson I learned from this experience was that issues such as hunger and poverty know no boundaries,â€ť said Ankeeta Shrestha, `11. â€śI come from a country where the incidence of absolute poverty is overwhelmingly high. Coming to the United States, which is one of the richest countries in the world, I never expected to see such horrific cases of impoverishment. It definitely has been a great learning experience, in fact, an eye opener, for me in that sense.â€ť
For Kristy Lashway, `10, the experience gave her an inside look at the cityâ€™s efforts to reach those in need.
â€śThis was definitely a good experience that gave me much more knowledge to how things work within the community and what is needed to be done to reach the hungry in Lynchburg,â€ť she said. â€śIt was nice to see a place that really makes a difference in the community and those who are dedicated to making a difference.â€ť
For Abbassi, one of the greatest parts of the course was giving her students the opportunity to meet and talk with people who have dedicated themselves to helping others.
â€śItâ€™s not all bad news,â€ť she said. â€śYou can go out and meet people in the community whose lives are guided by the value of helpi
CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of Communications