From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hunger Banquet and Citizenship Day

One of the things that I love most about Chicago is that I have the opportunity to see many different cultures and ethnicities all in one place. Just walking down the street, I see many people that I never would have seen if I had stayed back home this semester. I get to hear different languages being spoken on the El and as I walk down the streets. Learning about diversity has always been very interesting for me, so it is something that I am definitely enjoying!

Chicago Semester recently had a Hunger Banquet. It was the first one they have done. I went, and am glad that I did! Everyone was divided up into different classes. Some were upper class, and because of that, they were given more food than others. I was in the lowest class. I was homeless.

There were 4 of us total. Everyone else was served their food, but for us to get our food, we had to walk down the hall to one of the classrooms. It was to signify the distances that many homeless people must go for food. When we got there, we were only given a small serving of white rice. The one perk for us – we were allowed to beg the higher classes for food. That night for dinner, I had a small serving of white rice, one chicken nugget from McDonald’s, and part of a bread stick. This was a great experience, and it shed a little light on what many people in Chicago (and around the world) go through on a daily basis. It definitely gets you thinking.

Something else that I have participated in was Citizenship Day. Everyone in Chicago Semester went to a different place to volunteer at for a few hours. We went to Fourth Presbyterian Chicago Lights. These are just a few of the services that they offer: a weekly community meal that usually serves 125 persons, bag lunches distributed three days a week, a food pantry, distribution of clothing, housing information and assistance, computer classes, community voice mail, local transportation assistance, job readiness training, advocacy, health screenings, support groups, and (limited) case management.

We went mainly to help out with the food pantry, but also helped with many other aspects of the program. The food pantry is set up like a mini grocery store. Guests can walk through with a grocery cart, and pick out whatever it is that they need. I loved that it is set up that way! I think it’s really important to show that people have some dignity and worth, no matter how much they do or don’t have. How a food pantry is set up will set the tone of the environment and the people that come in for help. If you just hand them a bag of food, it isn’t as empowering as allowing the guests to come in and pick and choose what they want to take home with them (just like when they go grocery shopping).