For this year’s annual retreat, the Fourth Form took part in an Oxfam Hunger Banquet. Joined by Sacristans, faculty, and Head of School Rachel Stone, the 74-member class participated in a simulation that brings statistics about poverty to life. When they arrived in the Brodie Room, Fourth Form students randomly selected tickets matching real people who are high-, middle-, or low-income earners, demonstrating that where you end up is all in the luck of the draw.
The tickets are based on the latest statistics about the number of people living in poverty and each income level receives a corresponding meal. The 20 percent in the high-income tier—representing individuals that earn a minimum income of just $8,486.25 a year—were served a full, delicious meal of pasta, salad, and bread at set tables. The 30 percent in the middle-income section—representing individuals who earn between $2,135 and $8,486.25 a year—ate a simple meal of rice and beans. The 50 percent in the low-income tier—representing those who earn an income of less than $2,135 a year (under $5.45 a day)—helped themselves to small portions of rice and water and were seated on the floor.
Tracy Garcia-LaVigne, Theology teacher and Director of the Center for Spirituality, Service and Justice, helped organize the event to offer the students—and all involved—a different perspective. “The Fourth Form has been talking about needs versus wants, and this exercise allows them to step back and see the world around them from another point of view. The goal is to help the students gain new perspectives and inspire them to act.”
Maliyah Perkins '20 acted as master of ceremonies and led the groups, guiding participants through interactions that illustrate how inequalities in access to resources is the root of hunger and poverty rather than a deficit of food. After the meal, Sacristans facilitated small group discussions for students to share their thoughts on the experience and bring up actions to right the wrong of poverty.
Alex Schneider '22 drew a high-income card and noted that he felt both guilt and appreciation after the experience. “I felt guilty because while I was eating at a table, sitting in a nice chair, and eating good food, there were people just on the other side of the room that only had rice and a cup of water, and were sitting on the floor. This experience made me more appreciative for more than just the food I get to eat every day. There are people who walk five miles a day for water that isn’t even clean. We don’t realize that we are extremely lucky and fortunate to have the food we eat, the education we receive, and so much more.”
Ryan Kenna '22 was in the low-income section and reflected on the importance of gratitude for what he has. “During this retreat, I learned a lot and saw so many things through a whole new perspective. [...] it made me reflect on all the good things I have in life that sometimes may be taken for granted, including having food and water on the table each day, having a home, and being able to receive the best education.”
The Fourth Form Retreat was followed by a talk about Canterbury’s numerous community service opportunities, including the Walk A Mile For A Meal event to benefit the New Milford Food Bank, and the School’s longstanding tradition of participating in the Oxfam Fast for World Harvest. Oxfam is a global organization working to end the injustice of poverty, and works to help people build better futures for themselves, hold the powerful accountable, and save lives in disasters. Their mission is to tackle the root causes of poverty and create lasting solutions by partnering with organizations and individuals across the world.