NEWBERRY — Cardboard boxes were arranged haphazardly next to the fountain on the quad at Newberry College.
Not a sight students, staff, and faculty expect to see on the finely manicured grounds of an institution of higher education. Yet there they stood, provoking confusion and curiosity, which was clearly the intent.
The boxes were placed there deliberately as an educational experience. They were part of an awareness campaign designed to remind us that hunger and homelessness are very much present in the richest country on earth.
The boxes were trimmed out with old newspapers, which often serve the homeless as blankets, and each box had an information sheet that shared some aspect of homelessness.
As students came to look they could read that each day approximately 643,00 people in our country are homeless, or that 25 percent of the homeless are children under the age of 18, or that twelve percent are veterans, or that four out of 10 homeless live in cars, or under bridges, or in boxes like the ones on display.
The cardboard box display was part of a week-long series of events that were part of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
Events included passing out Dum-Dum suckers with hunger and homelessness information attached to them at tables in the cafeteria, the showing of a documentary about those living below the poverty line, a presentation by a speaker from Columbia about homelessness in South Carolina, and a 24 hour fast.
The awareness campaign was designed by Amanda McSwine of the Values Based Learning Program and members of ECHO, a campus service group.
According to McSwine, “the week was a great success. We set out to raise awareness for the millions of people that are dealing with hunger and homelessness. If only one person walked away from our events knowing something they didn’t before, we did our jobs. All it takes is a spark.”
One of the students who came to the display was Curtis Keisler who said, “The cardboard village forced you to realize the severity of homelessness. Cardboard, which is used to store lifeless items for safe keeping should never house a human being. To allow someone to live this way is inhumane and degrading to their spirit.”
The Director of the Values Based Learning Program Dr. Joe McDonald, explained that it is part of the mission of the college to prepare students for lives of service and leadership and that understanding the issues around us is a prerequisite for taking action.
“Being an effective citizen means keeping up with current events, reflecting on why these events happen, and working with others to address them. The skills and habits of citizenship must be learned and Newberry College is committed to providing experiences that help students learn them and practice them,” said McDonald.