Pay It Forward Inspires Community Volunteering

Three Week Course Gives Youths Valuable Insights Through Community Service

This winter, students of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School of South Hadley, MA, took part in a three week interim course called Pay It Forward.  

Eliza Bannasch (Age 16), PVPA student writes:

Even awash by the stories we hear every day, it’s easy to forget that hunger exists around us. Here in the Pioneer Valley, it’s easy to say ‘it doesn’t happen here’. Sometimes people simply say ‘I just don’t see it’.

And sometimes that’s the easiest thing to do, to not see. Flooded by the stories of starving children in the non-descript “Africa” it’s easier for us to shut down, to say that because we don’t know the solution we don’t have to help. What’s a mere 3 dollars going to do in this huge fight against hunger and poverty, anyway?

In January, 12 students of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School of South Hadley, MA, took part in a three week interim course called Pay It Forward. The class, run by Sasha Starr and Leigh-Ellen Figueroa, focused on education around the systems of poverty and how one can become homeless. I was a student in this class and each week we went to various pantries and soup kitchens to assist in whatever way possible. This included stacking boxes, serving food, sorting canned products, and helping to sort clothes in a second-hand store. In the afternoon we took part in activities and discussions surrounding the topics of homelessness and poverty. Three guest speakers came into the class; a professor of sustainability from UMass Amherst, a representative from the Western Mass Food Bank, and the director of youth programs from the National Conference for Community and Justice.

At the end of this short course, some of us were left feeling both empowered and helpless. Armed with the knowledge we had gained, we weren’t sure how we could keep putting it to use. What else could we do? And so the idea of the PVPA Hunger Banquet was born, an interactive social experience designed to educate people on hunger in the United States and in our local Pioneer Valley. This night has been organized by students that were inspired to open the eyes of the people in their communities to the systems within this country that lead to hunger and to inspire others to be part of the solution. All proceeds will be distributed to local organizations that support people who are food insecure.

Though many people have heard about and witnessed the tragedy that is hunger in this country, there is often a lack of knowledge regarding how exactly to help those in need. We’ve all come to a point where we simply don’t know how to help. We know the facts, we know the figures, we’ve heard sad stories, and we often don’t know what to do with this knowledge. This Hunger Banquet is our way of sharing our own knowledge in hopes that we can motivate people to make a change. We hope that people will come and help us make a change for community and our neighbors!


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