Upon hearing about the Walk for Hunger for the first time at age 8, I was immediately excited to participate in this amusing event and receive money for doing so! Soon after, I learned that the money I raised wasn’t actually mine to spend on gel pens and I was discouraged and confused. I didn’t quite understand how petitioning my family and friends for checks which I would mail to an address I didn’t recognize would help anyone. My older sister, who was just 10 at the time but already had a sophisticated understanding of morality and how checks work, took it upon herself to explain it to me. She explained that the checks we sent in would be exchanged for money, which would be used by professionals to assist those less fortunate than us with getting proper food and nutrition. This would enable them to focus in school and work to make more money and buy their own food, interrupting the bitter, redundant cycle of poverty.
She didn’t stop there. My wise, older sister made clear why this was an important endeavor for us, explaining that where there was an ability to help, there was a responsibility of the same size. “Not everyone has that ability,” she said. “Life isn’t fair,” she said- which, because I was 8 and she was 10, was actual information. She promised that we, together, could make it more fair. And I drank up her wisdom and promised both of us that I would do as much good as I was able.
That year, I participated in my very first Walk for Hunger! I walked with my family, including my parents, sister, and brother who was only 6 years old at the time, and we all finished. I raised around $200, none of which went to gel pens, and somehow it still felt fulfilling. We learned a lot about our cause, how kids who don’t have enough to eat struggle to concentrate and learn in school, get sick more frequently and recover more slowly. For many kids, skipping a meal isn’t a choice like it might be have been for me. Currently, more than 400,000 students in Massachusetts rely on school meals for half their daily nutrients. Those icky chicken nuggets and pizza in the school cafeteria? Oh. Over the years, due to this experience and others, I started to become aware of the magnitude of my privilege, and the importance of using this position help other people.
My wonderful, brilliant sister guided me through many moral quandaries like this one and many perplexities without such gravity (why should I make my bed in the morning if I'm just going to mess it up again at night?). She was always generous and philanthropic in her endeavors, and truly wanted the most for everyone. In 2012, less than a month after her sixteenth birthday, she committed suicide. I don’t know why. Her death quaked our family, our community at our mosque, her school, our town. It devastated us, and I watched the some of the strongest people I’ve ever known become pathetic as they grappled with the news. The traumatic and massive loss absolutely broke my heart and things will really never be the same.
“Although my sister’s death has affected me greatly, there is something that affects me even more, my sister’s life.” This is the enduring sentiment I expressed first during the eulogy I delivered at her funeral. Truly, the only way to honor her memory is to live by the values of selflessness, kindness and responsibility that she taught me during our time together. I embark on this fundraising endeavor with the memory of her in mind.
Project Bread is an established non-profit organization that supports the Massachusetts community with effective initiatives like their FoodSource Hotline which answers more than 46,000 calls annually, and their Summer Food Service Program which ensures that children who rely on school meals have somewhere to turn to when school is out for the summer. Currently, Project Bread is involved with more than 300 community food programs throughout Massachusetts.
The Walk for Hunger is Project Bread’s annual fundraising event during which participants are sponsored to walk twenty miles. Over the years, thanks to your impressive and humbling generosity, my Walk has cumulatively raised over $70,000. I sincerely thank every person who has provided support and company throughout this journey.
My fundraising goal this year is an all-time high and, I believe, still reasonable. Charity is vitally important not only to the functioning of our society but to the integrity of it. Marian Wright Edelman, a great advocate for disadvantaged Americans, said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”
Please consider donating to my Walk!
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” –John Wesley