By Maria-Nikka Sitchon
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
CATONSVILLE – Several social clubs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County gathered recently at Erickson Field to raise awareness about food scarcity in the community and on their campus.
“Today, we’re having a carnival to raise awareness for childhood poverty,” said Fatima Shaalan of the “Help End Hunger Carnival” on April 24. “We’re collecting cans and money all to [go] the food bank.”
UNICEF was created by the United Nations’ General Assembly in 1946 as an emergency food and healthcare agency for children and mothers in war-torn countries during World War II. At UMBC, Shaalan said the UNICEF Club is centered around child-related services and partnered with Sodexo, a leading provider of food and services, to improve the daily lives of people in North America. Shaalan is the treasurer.
The National Center for Children in Poverty said 19 percent of children in the United States live in families that are considered officially poor. In Baltimore County, statistics show 11.5 percent of children under 18 are below the poverty level, while 12.9 percent of children under 5 are below the poverty level.
Even closer to home, in Catonsville, federal statistics show 9.8 percent of children under 18 are below poverty, while 9.9 percent under 5 are below poverty levels.
“We wanted to do an event to raise awareness against food scarcity,” Hetvi Patel, a junior and president of the UNICEF Club, said. “We wanted to make it fun and we wanted to involve the preschool on campus, so we got the kids to come out.”
A preschooler sat in front of Patel patiently allowing her to draw cat features on her face with black paint.
“We have some games going on,” Patel said. “We involved other clubs as well to make it a bigger event.”
Some people dropped off canned-foods and other non-perishables at the event.
“Elkridge Food Bank is a food pantry” that Patel said would receive the donated items. “All the proceeds that we collect will go to them, whatever food donations we get, money. Everything.”
“It serves the local community, so they provide food to whoever’s in need,” she said. “They’re always looking for donations and they’re completely non-profit. That’s why this event is created to help them out.”
The UMBC UNICEF Club members wanted to give back and to make their peers aware of the food scarcity problem in the community.
Putting an event such as this one together can be a difficult job, club members acknowledged.
Patel explained: “So, us board members worked together. We had to meet with a lot of people at campus. It was a lot of administrative work effort just to get it approved because it’s so big. After that, we emailed a lot of clubs asking them if they want to be a part of this event for a great cause.”
Other clubs, such as Global Brigades, joined and participated in the event. Global Brigades is an international movement of students and medical professionals working alongside local communities and staff to implement sustainable health systems, according to the UMBC chapter of Global Brigades.
“I think an event like this is really good,” Mariama Jawara, a freshman and a club member of Global Brigades, said. “It’s
really helpful and the money goes to something good.”
Since this is the first big event from the UNICEF Club, the people turnout wasn’t as big as the members would have liked it to be.
“The issue is a lot of people don’t come,” Jawara said. “If we were to have more people that would be great.”
But some do remain positive about the future events they are going to hold. Their main goal for these events is to raise awareness for the causes within their club.
“For the future, I’d like to raise awareness for the causes we’re working for,” Shaalan said. “We want a bigger impact than we have right now. The bigger, the better.”