Is your Young Leaders Society focused on an issue? How are you getting young people involved with your United Way?
United Way of Central Carolinas’ Young Leaders (Charlotte, North Carolina) focused on the issue of hunger this past week, for their fifth annual Week to Fight Hunger. North Carolina ranks 6th in the nation for families experiencing food hardships each month, and the Week to Fight Hunger was designed to raise awareness of the issue of hunger and to get young professionals engaged in serving the hungry in their community.
During the Week to Fight Hunger, the Young Leaders organized and participated in more than 10 community service projects, which included helping to prepare and serve lunch to homeless men in the community, packing snack packs for homeless children, serving dinner for women and children at an emergency shelter, organizing and stocking shelves at a local food pantry, assisting with basic gardening for a community garden that grows produce for Loaves and Fishes and for surrounding communities, etc.
The Young Leaders also took part in a community “Hunger Challenge” to live on $4 of food a day ($28/week) – the equivalent of what the federal government provides to food stamp recipients. The goal of the Hunger Challenge is to give young professionals a first-hand experience of one obstacle that many people in the community face just to put food on the table each day. Throughout the week, Young Leaders discussed their challenges, insights, and perspectives on the Young Leaders’ Facebook and Twitter pages.
Here is a picture of what one of the Young Leaders purchased for the week, spending under $28 for the Hunger Challenge:
One of the Young Leaders’ council members wrote a post about his personal experience with the Hunger Challenge, saying, “At the checkout I find myself staring at the total as the cashier rings up each new item, suddenly wondering what happens if I go over my $28.00 limit? Do I ask her to put something back? What would I choose? What would the guy behind me think?” He went on to say that his experience at the grocery store, especially at the checkout, redefined his idea of “succeeding” at the Hunger Challenge. He said, “It is not a matter of making it through the week unscathed but rather an opportunity to glimpse the full hunger of people who don’t have a choice whether to keep something or put it back. Yes, we hunger after food, but we also hunger for respect, dignity, and a feeling of acceptance, and I felt those things slipping away as I questioned whether I could ‘afford’ the food on the conveyor in front of me.”
The Week to Fight Hunger also included a networking event, in which Young Leaders were entered to win gift cards for the Hunger Challenge. Anyone that shared the Young Leaders’ Facebook status on their own page when they posted comments or photos during the week was entered to win a $50 gift card of their own and a $50 gift card to the agency of their choice (of those served during the Week to Fight Hunger).
United Way of Central Carolinas’ Young Leaders’ Week to Fight Hunger is such a great example of a powerful way to connect young people to an issue in your community. From the pictures and comments the Young Leaders posted about their experience with the Hunger Challenge, to taking part in community service projects to serve hungry people in the community throughout the Week to Fight Hunger, you can clearly tell that anyone involved was affected by the experience and got a glimpse of what it would be like to be on a limited budget and to have to worry about where their next meal would be coming from.
Consider connecting your Young Leaders to an issue in your community, and invite them to participate in an experience like the Hunger Challenge and to volunteer to address the issue in your community. Show your Young Leaders how your United Way makes a difference in the community and invite them to get involved and make an impact.