On Monday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m., members of LIFT, a nonprofit organization, hosted what they call a “LIFTgiving,” in the Student Center atrium.
The purpose of the event was to show students the effects of stratification of social income classes and what it’s really like to be in someone else’s shoes for a night.
The event began with a “pop quiz” on poverty. LIFT volunteers asked, “How many homeless do you think there are in Philly on any given day?” This generated many guesses of small numbers, leaving students shocked to learn that the number was 4,000.
Michelle Curran, a junior marketing major and member of LIFT, said, “LIFT is a nonprofit organization that works with community members one on one. We help them figure out employment, help people find housing, and apply for public benefits.”
Roughly 40 students attended and randomly drew orange, green and purple cards, which determined which class strata he/she would be in for the event. Each card had its own story and depending on which card a student received, he/she received a meal that corresponded with that income tier.
For those students assigned to the lower class, meals included rice and water. The middle class got the same, with the addition of beans. However, the upper class was privileged enough to have salad, sprite, brownies, and rice.
“Tonight, I’m in the upper class,” Amanda Wochele, a sophomore english major, said. “My person was born from a family of Italian immigrants and I live in Chicago. I went to college and law school, and now I have my own practice. I own a good home, travel a lot, and I’m giving back to society by paying for students’ educations that have a disadvantaged background.”
Shira Rosenwald, marketing manager of Philabundance and guest speaker at the event, said, “There are one million people in the Delaware Valley area that are at risk of food insecurity. This means they don’t know where they’ll get their next meal. We feed 65,000 people a week, and with every thirty cents you give, we can buy a meal.”
“I’m a purple card,” Niiarmah Harper, a sophomore athletic training major, said. “I guess that means I’m low class tonight.”
For every four people living in Philadelphia, one is living in poverty.
“My character is a 40-year-old Bangladesh woman,” said Harper. “She is in a women’s group that does rice-husking and raises dairy cows. She also promotes women’s rights.”
“These kinds of events are good ways to raise awareness,” Harper said. “It shows people what it’s like to live in a different class and shows the true difference in incomes among people all over the world.”
Alyssa Saylor can be reached at Alyssa.firstname.lastname@example.org.