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Students hunger for Refugee Camp(us)

By Alexi Knock, Assistant News Editor

Refugee Camp(us) wrapped up after nearly a week of camping out in the cold on Calkins Quad in order to raise awareness for the hundreds of thousands of refugees around the world. The event, which was organized by Hofstra Human Action, has brought tears to the eyes of its participants during many of the activities put on throughout the week. These included hearing the stories of former refugees and photojournalists, and performing meditations each night before sleeping in tents.

"The major lesson for this week is that each human life is very important," said freshman broadcast journalism major Dan Hilton. "With refugee camp(us), we want to tell the student body that when you're sleeping in your beds, there are people who are sleeping in less-than-fair conditions."

The biggest Refugee Camp(us) event was the Hunger Banquet held Wednesday that gave students, professors and administrators pretend personas of real refugees and divvied them into three different levels of income which would determine how much they would be able to eat.

"What we're doing here is dramatically comparing the global class structure and global meals," said junior and Hofstra Human Action president Josh Gwin. "Sixty percent of the world eats just a small bowl of rice or less every day."

In order to represent real international hunger issues, sixty percent of the people at the Hunger Banquet were given low-income status.

"Initially I was like, ‘is this really all I'm going to have for dinner?'" said freshman Hofstra Human activist Bari Morchower was placed in the low-income group. "At the same time though, this [bowl of rice] is enough to feed someone for a whole day, so I know I really shouldn't be complaining."

Even the University's Provost, Herman Berliner came to the hunger banquet, only to be served a bowl of rice just like others in the low income group.

"I recognize the incredible difference between the haves and the have-nots that are on our planet," said Berliner. "And for now I represent Julio, a small farmer from El Salvador."
Many students and professors, however, were far from satisfied with their small meals.

"When I found out I was low income, I was really, really depressed. Especially when I saw the high income people get their own table as if they are at a restaurant," said sophomore Amanda Preston. "I really feel low income, which shows how good of a job Hofstra Human Action did in creating this simulation."

After the food trading and mild complaining was over, Executive Director of the INN, Jean Kelly, spoke about her experiences setting up 19 soup kitchens and three homeless shelters on Long Island. What had started 28 years ago as a small Hofstra group with big dreams is now a non-profit organization that has served over 500 people. "We need to help the refugees who are walking on our streets," said Kelly.
When the Hunger Banquet came to an end, some unlikely participants, including Dean of Students Peter Libman and Professor Arthur Dobrin, set up camp on the quad in 40 degree weather.

"This young activist generation, with [its] enthusiasm and intelligence invigorates me," said Dobrin. "I'm freezing, I don't want to be here, I hate camping and this is probably the last thing I'd want to be doing right now, but I'm out here tonight to make sure that Refugee Camp(us) feels supported."

Hofstra Human Action put on Refugee Camp(us) and camped out on Calkins Quad to raise awareness of real refugees. (Alexi Knock/The Chronicle)

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