This weekend marks the 24th Annual Hunger Cleanup Campaign. And no, it is in no way related to The Hunger Games.

Hunger Cleanup is a large-scale, one-day outreach project from Fairfield University. Roughly 400 to 600 students participate each year, going to work sites (chosen non-profit agencies) and assisting with a variety of services, such as repair work, painting or Spring cleaning.

“[It’s] a charity organization that seeks to raise awareness about hunger and homelessness in the US and in our surrounding area,” said Marie-Alexis Valente ‘12, a member of the Hunger Cleanup Executive Board. “We fundraise all throughout the year to raise money for different charity organizations and programs that fight to stop the cycle of poverty in the Fairfield community.”

After students help at the worksites, everyone returns to campus to enjoy a party with lots of food, a DJ and raffle prizes.

“It’s our biggest day for receiving donations and raising money to send to after school educational programs and other charity organizations in Fairfield county,” said Valente.

According to Wylie Smith Blake, adviser to the Hunger Cleanup Board and Campus Minister, $5000 was raised last year. The fundraising goal for this year is $10,000.

“The money goes to local agencies, chosen from among the ones we’ve serviced that day,” said Blake. “All of the money given to the agency is earmarked for educational purposes – because there is an awareness at a Jesuit school like ours that education improves lives through the learning of skills and helps stop the cycle of poverty.”

Valente has been involved with Hunger Cleanup since her freshman year, but it was her experience sophomore year that really pushed her to become a board member and to stay involved.

“I went to a children’s home and myself and the other volunteers helped clean up tree branches, leaves, and other debris left over from a powerful storm,” Valente recounted. “We saved the children’s center almost $7000 they would have spent to hire a company to do this work. It was very gratifying at the end of the day to hear the owner of the center speak about how he opened it after taking a trip to Peru with his son to witness the poverty of the children living there, but lost his own son to complications from malaria. He gave us a very tearful and heart-felt blessing and ‘thank you’ for our work, and reminded us to be grateful for every day.”

Valente added that the other goals of Hunger Cleanup are to “provide service to those affected by poverty and to stop it from continuing through supporting educational programs and activities so children realize there are alternatives and ways to break out of the cycle.”

She also said that Hunger Cleanup encourages students to leave their comfort zones and become familiar with the face of poverty.

Hunger Cleanup will start Saturday morning, March 31, at 7:30 a.m.

There’s still some time to form or join a team – look for tables in the BCC.

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