Pakistani group hosts Thanksgiving dinner for homeless at Rutgers
Homeless families from Edison, N.J., gathered for a Thanksgiving dinner sponsored by the Pakistani Student Association (PSA) last Thursday at a charity dinner to lift their spirits for the holiday season.
PSA was able to host families from the Ozanam Family Shelter in Edison, said Omar Elkattawy, a community service representative for PSA and School of Arts and Sciences junior. About 30 people attended the event in the Livingston Student Center on Nov. 17.
“We’re basically inviting homeless people over for a Thanksgiving feast, so basically just in the holiday spirit. Kids are also going to be coming so we have games, a lot of fun activities planned out for them, and it’s basically a way for us to spend a fun day and have them enjoy their night,” Elkattawy said.
Children and their parents were invited to spend quality time with PSA board members that organized the dinner. Games and activities were set up for entertainment, Ellkattawy said.
Talking and connecting with the homeless and getting to know their stories was a major part of the event, said Amina Zaidi, a Rutgers Business School sophomore.
“It was really enlightening to talk to people and learn some of their stories. I spoke to one woman who said her daughter won Miss India in 2013. A lot of them were just at the shelter for temporary housing too, so it really made me appreciate what I had and understand that people go through rough times in their life once in a while,” Zaidi said.
In the past, PSA’s charity was generally impersonal, such as raising money to donate to a cause or hosting a clothing drive.
This semester, PSA members wanted to have an event that allowed club members to get to know the people they were helping, said Manal Piracha, community service chair and junior.
“For us, we always do a community service event every semester, we just thought that this year we would do something a little different," Piracha said. "Everyone does the same sandwich making, or like making things for care packages, so what we wanted to do this time was kind of be able to interact with the homeless people.”
Later this year PSA hopes to work with Muslims Against Hunger to package sandwiches for people at the train station who may be in need. Usually, the organization ships the sandwiches off, but this year, members might bring the sandwiches to people individually in an effort to be more one-on-one with those they help, Zaidi said.
The community service section of PSA was responsible for planning the night, and they helped make sure everything ran smoothly, Elkattawy said.
With money from the club’s budget, King Pita was able to cater food to the families in need. Between finding a caterer, communicating back and forth with the homeless shelter and securing transportation, Elkattawy said the dinner took about an entire month to plan.
“It was a lot of planning, a lot of contacting the homeless shelters. It was kind of a struggle to communicate with them but I think that in the end it (came together),” Piracha said.
Oxfam, The Ashley Lauren Foundation and the Ahlul-Bayt Student Association all supported the event, Elkattawy said.
And all the effort was worth it, Zaidi said. The board members all deemed the night a success, saying they accomplished their mission.
“Everyone really loved the children, they were happy to be there and eat and play, and they hugged us goodbye as we left. Overall it was a really good experience and we hope to do something like that again,” Zaidi said.
Elkattawy felt as though the main goal of the night had been met as well.
“I think everything went as planned and the visitors really enjoyed their night," he said. "The main idea behind the event was to make the homeless smile and I am happy to say we did."
Angelisa Cunniff is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.