Some students are trying to make sure their classmates remember the plight of those less fortunate as they gear up for finals.
Today marks the beginning of the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project fast, during which students can donate their meal swipes to charity for a day. This year’s drive is kicking off with a change in the signup process after last year’s fast caused confusion among some students. No one, including students who fasted last semester, should be signed up automatically for this week’s fast, Dwight Hall co-coordinator Amy Wojnarwsky ’07 said. Students were signed up automatically last semester due to a computer error that forced students to “opt out” of the fast if they had signed up the previous semester.
“Since the error has been corrected, we have reverted to an opt-in system,” Wojnarwsky said. “Therefore, students must sign up again for this fast and all future fasts.”
The fast is the signature event marking YHHAP Awareness Week, which kicks off today with tabling on Cross Campus that features a display about the homeless in New Haven. Other events include a Dwight Hall Tea with a homeless advocate about the idea of community and a service trip to the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen on Wednesday, YHHAP co-coordinator Jane Levy ’08 said.
Other groups, including Rotaract, Tsunami Relief at Yale and Mind Matters, have partnered with YHHAP to help execute the fast by tabling at dining halls, Levy said. Wojnarwsky said these student groups have also requested that money be given to specific charities, although the final numbers will not be decided until Dining Services confirms the number of people who are participating in the fast. The fast helps strengthen the community at Dwight Hall by building alliances across groups with differing individual agendas, she said.
“One of the great things about Dwight Hall as an umbrella organization is that we are able to cater to a wide range of causes for which individual groups advocate,” Wojnarwsky said. “However, Dwight Hall is also able to promote cooperation across [and] between groups for the advancement of a common cause.”
Students who sign up for the fast online though the dining system page on Yale Student Information Services will not be able to swipe at any of the dining halls on Thursday, and their meal swipes will be donated to charity, Wojnarwsky said. This semester, the Feinstein Challenge has partnered with the fast to match each dollar or canned good donated with another dollar, she said.
“In terms of each student’s meal swipes, this means that YHHAP will receive $12-$14 from each Fast participant,” she said.
Veronica Hu ’07, who is coordinating Yale Students for Christ’s participation in the fast, said the experience has been positive and that the organization appreciates having some input in deciding where the money will go. This year marks YSC’s first time participating in the organization of the fast. Hu said the fast represents an excellent opportunity for students to give back to the city.
“We want to care more about those who live in our community, and we believe the YHHAP fast is a way to donate money we otherwise may not be able to raise ourselves to alleviate hunger and homelessness in New Haven,” Hu said. “By sacrificing something ourselves to give to others, we follow Christ’s example of serving his people.”
But Hu said she thinks the $7 that Dining Services will donate per student is inefficient, since students will likely spend more than that to feed themselves elsewhere. Still, she said that a voluntary contribution system, which would encourage students to donate the actual costs of their meals, would probably be more difficult to administer.
Levy said she hopes YHHAP will be able to raise money and to increase student understanding of the difficulties the homeless face.
Sign-ups for the Thursday fast end Wednesday morning. Tuesday’s 4:15 p.m. tea will be followed by a panel titled “True Life: The Reality of Homelessness” at 8 p.m. A Passover study and fast break featuring local pastries is planned for 9 p.m. on Thursday.