Fast-A-Thon participants raise money for local charities
On the top floor of the Hall of Languages at 6:16 p.m. Thursday, about 80 students, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, broke their fast, pouring themselves cups of water and grabbing dates and handfuls of Chex Mix.
The dinner marked the end of the Fast-a-Thon, an event sponsored by the Muslim Law Students Association, the Graduate and Undergraduate Muslim Student Associations and the State University of New York Upstate Medical University’s Muslim Student Association.
Non-Muslim students were asked to fast on Thursday from sun up to sun down. For every student who fasted, local Syracuse businesses donated money to Meals on Wheels and the Samaritan Center.
Altogether, 141 students participated in the Fast-a-Thon. They raised more than $1,800, split equally between the two charities.
‘We know at 6:16 p.m. the water is sitting right there in front of us and the dates are there,’ said Mariam Jukaku, a graduate student in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. ‘For people who are actually hungry, they don’t have that.’
Mary Beth Frey, the executive director of the Samaritan Center, said volunteers served about 82,000 meals last year alone.
‘For many people it is, ‘Do I pay the rent this week or do I buy food?” she said. ‘For us, even contemplating the fact that you would have to make this choice is hard to imagine.’
For many students, the Fast-a-Thon was an exercise in self control.
‘I was thirsty,’ said Kerri Clark, a second year law student. ‘I really respect that people could do this everyday. That’s impressive and I respect that.’
The Fast-a-Thon fell during the last days of Ramadan, a month-long period of fasting for Muslims.
‘During Ramadan we decrease our sensory input so that our spiritual input can increase,’ Jukaku said. ‘You say, ‘How am I going to get through law class without that coffee?’ Every time you feel that pang of hunger or that pang in your throat you remember God.’
A philosophy major as an undergraduate, Omar Qudrat, a first year law student and member of the Muslim Law Students Association, said Ramadan is a time for self improvement.
‘Aristotle was asked how to acquire true virtue,’ he said. ‘His answer was simple: you do what is right until it becomes habit.’
Many of the students who participated in the Fast-a-Thon had fasted before, whether it was part of their religion or otherwise. Leo Urbinelli, a second year medical student at Upstate Medical University, said he was a wrestler in college and had to fast before meets.
‘That’s what it reminded me of most,’ he said. ‘Walking by a water fountain and not being able to drink was tough.’
The Samaritan Center exists only because of community outreach like the Fast-a-Thon, Frey said. The soup kitchen operates with the help of more than 400 volunteers a month.
‘Hunger is the face of poverty and poverty has a lot of faces,’ she said. ‘Poverty is also single parent households, it’s homelessness, it’s the mentally ill, it’s substance abuse, it’s unemployment.’
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