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"Project" idea - hunger banquets


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For those of us whose kids need to complete a graduation project as part of their schooling experience (or otherwise would just want to), I'll share what my oldest successfully did last year (and my middle son is making plans for this upcoming year). It was very moving.

 

He put on a Hunger Banquet through our church... here's how he did it:

 

He set up tables with seating for ten. Then he fed people according to world population eating. One person at each table got a full, nice, traditional meal (choice of 2 options) with their own private waiter/waitress (other kids helped). Three others got a rice and beans meal. The other six got one cup of white rice. The bottom nine all got water to drink. Once gone, it was gone - food and water - no waiter returned to ask about anything. The one could choose from several options to drink, and their cup was always full. They could also get 2nds if they wanted - no one wanted. He noted that had we done it for real, some would have gone hungry.

 

As people came in they were allowed to sit where they wanted. Then an assistant went around with a random color coded slips of paper for people to draw to make it completely random, but the right numbers at each table. Those with the full meal had to eat next to those getting just the rice or rice and beans. They said it made them feel uncomfortable. That was the point. On the board he showed video clips from Haiti and stats from Haiti and around the world. Check this out:

 

 

 

It was the beginning of the show - the only part he didn't create himself. Afterward he did a power point of his own with the rest of the stats (pre and post earthquake for Haiti) that he got from various websites and personal info. You could hear the [surprised] response and even see tears on some people. He got a really nice donation (all to microfinance poverty relief) that night. His goal for his own life is a job in microfinance, so it all fit with his future. Part of his presentation after the dinner was how microfinance can change people's lives showing what was going on with the organization that received the donations from the evening.

 

I don't really know how much people remember after they go home (generally stopping to get something to eat along the way), but it certainly is worth the reminder to people here in rich countries that not all have what we have. It really bothers him when others feel they are "poor" simply because they can't afford the latest toys (or whatever) for Christmas. That's not poverty... but I won't go on with that.

 

My middle son talked with the youth pastor at church and will be gearing up to do a similar project in the spring - perhaps still focusing on Haiti or perhaps focusing on a different country that means a bit to him. He wants to be a doctor, so might present a bit on hunger, but then turn it toward medical care or clean sources of water, etc. to better fit his intended future.

 

If anyone else thinks their kids would get meaning out of doing something similar, feel free to use the idea tweaking it to fit.

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I've done this with middle schoolers. I don't know that it would be a good idea for kids too much younger than that - maybe 4th and 5th graders. I think for younger kids, it could just seem unfair without really going beyond to get the message... but I could be wrong.

 

The way it was done where I taught, kids drew cards and got sent to different tables - still in the proper proportions. The lucky few kids at the rich world table got piles of food - fresh fruit, pizza, soda, junk food, all kinds of options and someone waited on them like a restaurant. Then there was the biggest table with just rice and beans - each kid got a small plate and a small serving. Then there was a small group that sat on the floor on a blanket with a communal bowl and no utensils and just rice. (I really hope, thinking about this now, that we made them wash their hands first...)

 

The fascinating thing that happened was that the kids at the everything on a platter table didn't even think to share. They just went along with it. That's the simulation, they knew it was a simulation and they'd lucked out. But midway through the meal, the kids at the middle table went over and shared their utensils and some of their beans with the kids on the floor. They also jokingly heckled the kids at the rich table. Then, that became part of what we talked about when we broke up into groups to discuss it afterward.

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I agree that I think middle school or up would be most appropriate as I don't think younger kids would truly "get it."

 

We had considered having different groups with the poorest sitting on the floor, but we came to the conclusion that mixed in really helped the message sink in better. Plus, in a situation with older people... sitting on the floor is not good... With kids it's different.

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I agree that I think middle school or up would be most appropriate as I don't think younger kids would truly "get it."

 

We had considered having different groups with the poorest sitting on the floor, but we came to the conclusion that mixed in really helped the message sink in better. Plus, in a situation with older people... sitting on the floor is not good... With kids it's different.

 

This is really interesting! Did the participants know ahead of time what was going to be happening or was it a surprise? Very interesting! I'd LOVE more details.

 

Blessings,

Angela

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The fascinating thing that happened was that the kids at the everything on a platter table didn't even think to share. They just went along with it. That's the simulation, they knew it was a simulation and they'd lucked out. But midway through the meal, the kids at the middle table went over and shared their utensils and some of their beans with the kids on the floor. They also jokingly heckled the kids at the rich table. Then, that became part of what we talked about when we broke up into groups to discuss it afterward.

 

That just seems how it is in real life, too. The middle class, or at least some of it, knows how it feels to have just enough, and knows it could fall into poverty. This reality moves them to compassion for the poor. But the rich just take it all for granted; it must just be meant for them to be rich and for the poor to be poor, they think. At least this is what I see here in India.

 

Recently a 10 year old playmate of ds11 invited ds11 to his apartment to play. In his room was another 10 year old boy, sweeping and tidying up his room. My son was shocked. Why wasn't Ritvik cleaning his own room? Why wasn't that boy at his own home, playing or doing homework? Ds came home and told dd about it, and she was appalled, too. Dh wanted to make a report about it to the complex, and demand compliance with child labor laws (apparently there are some, but they are not necessarily enforced). I told them it may not be a good idea, because the money this boy earns may be paying for his own schooling, which he might otherwise not be able to have.

 

The sad thing, really, is that this doesn't bother Ritvik, or his parents, or probably any Indian in the complex. That's just how it is, they think, and on some level, probably the way they think it should be. How to break through this? How to pique a conscience?

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The sad thing, really, is that this doesn't bother Ritvik, or his parents, or probably any Indian in the complex. That's just how it is, they think, and on some level, probably the way they think it should be. How to break through this? How to pique a conscience?

 

Keep in mind that *I* think Ritvik should be cleaning his own room. I think all ten-year-old boys should clean their own rooms. ;)

 

But it could be that they believe that they are doing their part by providing work for this child (to pay for school or shoes or to help feed his family or whatever he does with the money). I know that in some cultures with staggering poverty problems, those with a good income are expected to share their resources by providing paid work for those without.

 

I don't know if this is the case in India, or with Ritvik's family in particular, just throwing it out there.

 

Cat

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This is really interesting! Did the participants know ahead of time what was going to be happening or was it a surprise? Very interesting! I'd LOVE more details.

 

Blessings,

Angela

 

It was 100% a surprise for all involved except those of us who were in on it due to planning purposes (my son ran some ideas by us). All the teens involved (servers, etc) kept it a secret from the masses. Perhaps some of their parents knew though.

 

People knew they were coming to a teen's project to support a cause, but they thought they were getting a regular dinner with a speaker and presentation.

 

We heard many good comments about it afterward, but many also said they were surprised. No one complained.

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Ds read a book about Mother Theresa last year, and in the book, she is a speaker at a dinner for rich people here in India. What a surprise for them when no food was provided! Instead, she told them that the money they gave, just for their one meal, would feed several thousand children in India for a year! She told them the hunger they felt was exactly what poor children feel every day. What an eye-opener!

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Just thinking some more about the details that could be important...

 

He had a sign up sheet to get a rough idea how many were coming, then had enough food for more than that (good thing) as others showed up and/or brought friends. It was also advertised (freebie) in our local newspaper's event page, but I don't think many came from that.

 

Tables were pre-set with paper plates, etc, and once everyone sat where they wanted, some others of us filled in gaps to see that there were 10 everywhere. Then the kids went around with the random colored papers. All were white on the back side, but had a color swatch (from a crayon) on the under side.

 

My son came on and welcomed everyone to the dinner and suggested they might now know something was up due to the random drawing... and to be patient, that everyone would get served.

 

The personal waiter for the rich (one for each table) saw who had the "rich" color and removed their paper setting and put down regular plates and a cloth napkin. We didn't have fine china. They were immediately asked what they would like to drink, then had the option of a chicken pasta dish or a marinara pasta dish (suitable if someone were a vegetarian). Rolls were served to that person and their meal came out before anyone else got any food. Other kids were in the back putting it together. They had been setting up and cooking much earlier. The waiter stayed within 6 feet of their "person", ready for any request, but not looking over their shoulder or breathing down their back.

 

After the rich were served and were told to go ahead and start eating, a different waiter noted who had the "middle" papers and brought out plates with 1 cup each of cooked beans and rice without much in spices. They also brought out 1 cup of water for each person. Nothing was said aside from basic conversation. Food was just placed in front of them, then they were left.

 

After the middle were served, another person brought out plates with one cup of white rice for everyone left and one small cup of water. Immediately then the Youtube video from above started - while people were still eating.

 

What had been amused grumbling and laughter at the tables immediately ceased and the audience was literally spellbound. The video above then went directly into the power point my son had created. It was powerful - especially as people were sensing the difference right at their tables. (Childcare was provided, so young youngsters weren't there.) This whole part lasted maybe 15 minutes (guessing, but it wasn't too long to lose interest).

 

Then he had a speaker lined up who talked about poverty he had seen worldwide as well as nationwide. He asked people in the audience who had drawn "rich" what their feelings were as they ate. They agreed the best word to describe it was uncomfortable since most were among friends.

 

After the speaker my son got on stage to speak about what microfinance is and how it can change lives world-wide. He mentioned that he is going to go to college with plans on doing that for his career, but that donations that night were 100% going to Haiti via a microfinance company working there now (Hope International). This part included some facts about Hope, who they loan to, and repayment records, etc. Hope is a Christian organization, but they do not discriminate based on religion for loans. Their intent is not to "buy" believers, but to improve lives by financing local people in their local businesses (almost always small businesses).

 

Then he dismissed people. He said there were donation envelopes there if anyone wanted to donate, but that nothing was required. It was more important that they understand.

 

As people were leaving, he was still answering questions about microfinance. As a graduation project I think he did a great job educating people who otherwise don't really know what is going on outside of the US, Europe, etc, beyond the most "basic" of knowledge.

 

My middle son is going to do a similar program next spring sometime (as noted above) in a different venue, and, while hunger will still be a focus, since it's his graduation project, he will try to incorporate some medical statistics or clean water or something to make it "match" him. The donations involved might go to a different project too. I'm not sure - and it's his decision to make since it's his project. He's in the beginning stages of discussing it where the dinner is likely to be held (a large church).

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