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Dora Armenta. Photo by Kelly Lacefield

Student Leadership in Action

Extending a Helping Hand to the Hungry, Homeless

November 10, 2009

By Debra Cano Ramos

Every night in the United States, tens of thousands of people are homeless and go to bed hungry.

In Orange County, those numbers are just as startling.

More than 450,000 people at risk for hunger every month in the county, according to the Orange County Food Bank. The homeless population, which represents every race, age group and community in Orange County, is estimated at more than 35,000 — nearly the size of Cal State Fullerton’s student population.

These are statistics sociology major Dora Armenta wants to change.

Armenta, a junior who wants to pursue a career helping others, is a project leader for the university’s Nov. 16-19 Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week event. She is one of more than 15 students who planned and implemented the event, themed “Feed Thought. Make Change.”

The four-day event, sponsored by the Volunteer & Service Center, hopes to dispel stereotypes about the homeless and hungry population in Orange County. The event features a visual exhibit confronting stereotypes of homeless people, an interactive exhibit that explores the causes and realities of hunger and homelessness, and a canned food drive and monetary donation collection to benefit the Orange County Food Bank.

As one of the student project directors, the Fullerton resident discusses the purpose and significance of the event.

Why is it important to hold this event?

It is important that the community become aware of the prominent issues affecting individuals in their immediate areas.

When something as serious as hunger and homeless issues arise, every individual should be educated about it, so that with this knowledge we could extend a helping hand and change it. No individual and family should have to suffer alone simply because the population is not aware of their unfortunate circumstances. By teaching and enlightening others, we hope that they can see the seriousness of this prevalent issue and do their part to aid others.

What will students learn?

For those who participate in the event, we hope to instill a sense of benevolence and a desire to assist others. We’re hoping that they will realize that it is up to them to change the circumstances of these individuals. Hunger and homelessness could happen to anyone, and we should all take an active role to help those who are in need.

Why are you involved in this project?

It is not enough that we know something; knowledge should be spread and then acted upon. Helping to coordinate Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week allows me to spread knowledge and make others aware. Simply because this issue may not presently or directly affect us does not mean it should not concern us. I strongly believe that we should always extend a helping hand, whether it is through direct service or spreading awareness. It all starts with educating others, and that is what I am hoping to do.

What is the message you would like spread about hunger and homelessness?

Perhaps you may not see it or even hear about it, but it is there in your own neighborhood. Unfortunately, hunger and homelessness lurks in our community and our only hope is for each one of us to become a participant for change in order to transform the circumstances of others. Homelessness does not discriminate against anyone; it could happen to me — and you.

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