A Helping Hand: Wolfpack Fights World Hunger
The student organizers of Leadership and Civic Engagement's Rise Against Hunger event reflect on their experience and what volunteerism means to them.
By Caleb White, DASA Marketing and Communications intern
Last week, Leadership and Civic Engagement partnered with the non-profit Rise Against Hunger to fight hunger and food insecurity. The result was incredible, as 60 students volunteered to package over 6,000 meals that were deployed to Haiti and Sierra Leone. Osvaldo Rodriguez and Haley Johnson, service interns for NC State Leadership and Civic Engagement, organized the meal packing event as part of Winter Welcome Week and shared their thoughts about the experience:
Why did you do this meal packaging event?
“Rise Against Hunger targets a topic, food insecurity, that is very important to me as a student in biological sciences and global public health. It is an issue that affects all of us, including some of us on campus. For example, in 2017, 14 percent of NC State students reported experiencing food insecurity in the previous 30 days since they were surveyed. When I lost my job to COVID-19 crippling the food and hospitality sector in Raleigh last year, I experienced a period of time where access to food and even keeping a roof over my head became a daily struggle.
Sadly, such events are not unknown to me. My mother, an immigrant from Honduras, had often told me about the struggles that Hondurans often faced to make it by, day-to-day. So when I think about food insecurity and hunger, I think of a topic that directly affects me and my community. At a global level, food insecurity affects the development of fragile economies and exacerbates disease and instability. I was very fortunate to have the help of NC State’s Student Emergency Fund, my family and even my ex-employer; but many other communities do not have that benefit. Rise Against Hunger works to address these issues by providing immediate assistance, and then targeting the systemic issues that cause food insecurity in the first place, to hopefully provide a responsible service that aids in the development of the affected region.
Student Leadership and Engagement has had a strong relationship with the organization, and when we were considering the best way of providing eager students with accessible community service projects on campus, Rise Against Hunger was first in mind. I hope students on campus also know that they don’t have to wait for organizations like Rise Against Hunger to come so they target food insecurity. Feed the Pack is always looking for help, and the volunteer work contributed goes to help members of our very own community.”
Who helped out during this event?
“Haley Johnson and Brian Mathis of Leadership and Civic Engagement have been critical to project planning and deployment. Also Zack, of Rise Against Hunger, has been an amazing person to work with. However, the backbone of this work was carried out by 60 wonderful students of different backgrounds and walks of life that came to the event to help. Some assisted in packing meals, while others helped us with the loading and unloading of materials from the truck transporting materials for the main event. Even after the event, I have been receiving emails from students excited to continue engaging their communities as active citizens.”
Who was this event for/who did it benefit?
“This event was organized for students who were seeking to take advantage of the first week of school and participate in a good cause, while learning about volunteering opportunities and leadership development resources available on campus this semester.
Last semester, accessing connections with community service organizations was made difficult by the quarantine measures put in place by the state and university. We recognized a strong desire by students to remain active in their communities, but the pandemic put up various barriers that made it difficult for community service organizations to work with us or for students to reach those student organizations. To address those concerns this semester, we wanted to kick off the first week by bringing the volunteer experience and community service organization representative directly to campus.
Rise Against Hunger focuses on addressing food insecurity and humanitarian crisis response at an international level. To date, they’ve delivered aid to 78 countries, including packaging over 500 million meals since 1998.The meals that were packed in this event by the 60 students who participated will be going overseas. With that said, we shaped the event to ensure that students themselves received plenty of information over the impact that volunteering has on a community and how to continue remaining an active citizen. My hope is that while students found a way to contribute some of their time to a worthy cause, that the experience will motivate them to incorporate service in both their actions, being and disciplines.”
“This service event was planned during the Winter Welcome Week to engage with NC State students from new first-year students to graduate school students. We encouraged students to participate in this in-person, on-campus service event in order to meet fellow students, help people around the world, and to build community and appreciation for the opportunities on campus while in a global pandemic. I myself experienced Zoom fatigue and electronic burnout from staring at a computer screen all day. This opportunity gave students a chance to safely participate in an in-person service event and make a difference in their first week back on campus.
Additionally, the meals that were packaged from the event were going to Haiti and Sierra Leone via Rise Against Hunger. Participants from today’s event packaged over 6,000 meals with necessary nutrients and vitamins that are not fully accessible or attainable to people from these countries.”
What are some of your favorite parts of volunteering? Why should others volunteer?
“There is certainly a satisfaction that comes from doing kind and altruistic things. It feels good to know that you are helping someone else. However, what I want others to take away from my own reflections on volunteering is that, for me, being a part of community service is about manifesting the changes I want to see in this world both through how I utilize my time and how I conduct myself as a scientist. As I said in the debriefing meetings after each service shift, you do not have to wait for a service event or for graduation to save lives. Being a part of the solution to a problem that matters to you, or may even affect you, is something that you can do immediately.
Forming connections with local community partners is a great first step to becoming better informed about a problem that affects your community, as well as becoming an active element of the solution. But over time, incorporating the value of service in everything you do will enhance the change that you wish to affect in your community.”
“Volunteering gives you an opportunity to participate in something that is bigger than yourself, and allows you to make a difference in others lives who might not be as fortunate as you. Students on NC State’s campus have access to so many resources that even other college students do not have access to, from exercise equipment to mental health resources to career and legal advice. A significant portion of members in our local community do not have access to these resources and more.
Even with access to all of the resources on campus there are still members of the NC State community that struggle with food insecurity, especially during COVID-19 times. By volunteering for service events, participants can directly and indirectly help people in their surrounding community and organizations that make a positive difference. I also enjoy the opportunity to meet new people and develop relationships with fellow students and staff members. My favorite volunteer opportunities look to address food security, and I enjoy working in outdoor community gardens that provide fresh, healthy produce at no cost to local community members.
You should consider volunteering more because it gives you the opportunity to help others, meet others, and might just change your perspective on life. The more you volunteer, the more you learn to appreciate what you have in life and to stop taking the ‘small stuff’ for granted. Volunteering often puts me in a better, more positive mood and it may do the same for you if you give it a try! Be on the lookout for service opportunities posted throughout the semester on the NC State Service Site and in the Triangle area through Activate Good.”
Learn more about Rise Against Hunger and their mission here at https://www.riseagainsthunger.org/, and keep on the lookout for future volunteer opportunities on campus through the University Calendar at https://calendar.ncsu.edu/.