Dozens of volunteers filled the Southern High School cafeteria Wednesday night, working in tandem to fill, weigh, seal and package bags of rice, dried vegetables and soy. Some volunteers wore Duke blue, others N.C. Central maroon; some wore Southern football jerseys and others Durham Rotary sweaters. But all worked in unison to package 50,000 meals, all of which were sent to Haitians affected by their country’s recent natural disaster.
“The earthquake brings a real sense of urgency and gravity to this work,” said Sam Miglarese, Director of Community Engagement in Duke’s Office of Community Affairs and President of the Durham Rotary, before the packing began. “Everybody has an extra level of commitment tonight.”
Wednesday’s event was the fifth Million Meals coordinated by the Durham Rotary to bring together Duke, N.C. Central and community volunteers to prepare meals that the organization Stop Hungry Now sends to people in need across the world. Organizers of the 2010 Million Meals — funded in part by Duke’s Office of Community Affairs and Center for Civic Engagement — decided about a week before the event to make it part of the larger Haiti relief effort.
The energy in the cafeteria was high. Volunteers from different schools got to know each other while working, and every time another 1,000 meals were packed away, a volunteer struck a gong.
Bijoy Sahoo, dean of the N.C. Central business school, said his students who participate in Million Meals always remember it as one of their favorite university experiences, a chance to get to know their fellow Durham students and to serve in a meaningful way.
“We want our students to do well for the careers in which they’ve trained, but we also want them to be good human beings and good citizens of a global community,” Sahoo said. “This event is a perfect opportunity for them to develop that habit.”