Rice Bowls on campus are capturing the spirit of Lent

Emily Maier, Crier Staff

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Almsgiving, or the practice of donating to the poor, is one of the most fundamental aspects of Lent. Because of this, Saint Anselm’s Campus Ministry has once again partnered with Catholic Relief Services in order to participate in this year’s Rice Bowl program. Lasting from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday, Campus Ministry will be giving out makeshift coin banks called Rice Bowls, which participants will then fill with donations for communities in need.

The Rice Bowls come folded flat for easy carrying, but they can quickly be arranged into prisms with an opening in the top for placing donations. The idea behind the Rice Bowls is for people to take them home and gradually fill them with loose change and dollar bills until they are ready to turn them in to Campus Ministry. Once returned to Campus Ministry, the contributions will be passed along to Catholic Relief Services, a humanitarian agency that will handle the distribution of the donations.

Inside each Rice Bowl is a booklet filled with recipes from various places all around the world, including Haiti, Iraq, Nicaragua, and more. To go with the spirit of Lent, all the recipes are meat-free. As the name of the program might suggest, almost all of the recipes feature – you guessed it – rice! In order to connect donors with the people they are helping, the booklets also present the stories of individuals from each highlighted country.

Overseeing the Rice Bowl program is Andrew Fellows, a former Campus Minister at Saint Anselm College, who stated, “It’s not just about collecting money, but also a tool used for almsgiving, a tool of encountering people on the margins, an educational device.” To get a better idea of how much influence these desperately needed donations can have, the Rice Bowls come with various statistics. Displayed on the side of each coin bank are the words: “$1 a day for 40 days of Lent helps provide one month of food for a family, two years of seed for a farmer, one emergency kit for refugees.”

As to where the money will be donated, Catholic Relief Services will be giving 75% of the collected money to areas in need all around the world. This year’s program is focusing on the countries of Iraq, Nicaragua, Burkina Faso, Haiti, and Malawi. The remaining 25% will be given back to the communities where the money came from – so a portion of all the money collected by Campus Ministry will go towards benefiting the town of Manchester, NH.

When asked about the aim of the program, Fellows stated, “This program in particular is all based around hunger alleviation.” However, hunger alleviation can come in many forms, as Fellows added, “The money is going towards things like agricultural projects, water sanitation, health projects for children, supporting small businesses, and education.”

The program strives to connect donors with the recipients of their charity in order to make the process a more meaningful, personal experience. On the subject, Fellows stated, “The whole message is about encounter and the reason they give you these stories about individual people is so that you can have more of a connection. It’s not just “I’m going to give some money to Haiti and I’ll never think about Haiti again;” it’s about what it’s like to live as a person from Haiti. What would that person eat? What are that person’s struggles? What is the money that is being given to them going to help support?”

The community of Saint Anselm College is built around principles like education and helping those in need, making it the perfect environment for a program such as this. After all, this is not the first year Saint Anselm College has participated in the Rice Bowl program, and it’s very unlikely this will be the last. About the importance of the charity, Fellows said, “Throwing money at a problem doesn’t change anything, it’s changing people’s hearts and giving education that makes a difference.”

For those interested in donating, there is still time to pick up Rice Bowls at the Abbey Church. The donations will be accepted by Campus Ministry up until Sunday, March 25 on Palm Sunday. Further information can be found at www.crsricebowl.org or by emailing Campus Ministry.

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