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Stop Hunger Now program to come to UR Feb. 19

One child dies every six seconds from a hunger-related cause. One $10.50 meal in the Heilman Dining Center could feed 252 starving children in poor, tribal Orissa, India.

A leadership team of University of Richmond students, staff and faculty will host a Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event Feb. 19 to send 20,000 nutritious meals to children at a school in India.

The school is close to the heart of Robert Maddux of the Robins School of Business department of management.

One day, while playing golf with his brother, a minister, Maddux said he had been trying to find something meaningful to do, having recently retired from corporate life.

"He said, 'Well, I'm getting ready to go to India, why don't you go with me?'" Maddux said. "I said, 'I don't want anything that meaningful,' but he talked me into it."

Maddux and his brother went to do work at New Hope Children's Home, an orphanage opened when Abraham Varghese, founder of Gospel for India, gathered 38 orphaned children from South Asia after the tsunami in 2004.

Three hundred thousand people were killed, leaving thousands of children orphaned and without basics like food, shelter, clothing, medical care, education and hope for a future, according to its website.

"I fell in love with the kids so I started doing some work to try to help them," Maddux said. "I ended up on the board of the orphanage and so I have a permanent commitment to kids in India."

He tried to go back once a year for a week to help and work, he said.

New Hope Children's Home opened a school in Orissa, where there is no public school for 40 miles and no transportation. Forty seven percent of people in rural Orissa live in poverty.

"We are the only education that these kids get," Maddux said. "And if you can feed them, their parents will send them to school, because it's the only meal they get."

Maddux had worked with Stop Hunger Now before with his rotary club and church. Volunteers have packaged a total of 33,620,030 meals in its 12 years of existence for 72 countries, according to its website.

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"All of the sudden it just clicked, Stop Hunger Now, our little school," Maddux said. "If we can get more food, we could educate more kids."

Maddux talked to representatvies from Stop Hunger Now, who said they didn't have any programs in India and were excited about the school.

"What blew my mind was when they looked at me and said, 'OK, to ship a container to India, you need to pack 143,000 meals,'" Maddux said.

Maddux started working with a number of rotary clubs and churches as well as Richmond to reach this goal. He is currently at around 90,000 meals.

Maddux approached Adrienne Piazza, coordinator of student development and educational programming at the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, and she contacted people she thought would be interested.

Only two or three students attended the first meeting, but they formed a leadership team representing different organizations on campus. The team has been working on fundraising and presenting to different groups to secure pledges of volunteers and money by Dec. 3.

Each dehydrated rice/soy meal is fortified with 21 essential vitamins and nutrients and can feed six people for 25 cents. In two hours, 40 people can package 10,000 meals.

The leadership team is hoping to raise $6,000 and 200 volunteers to produce 20,000 meals in two to three hours. Stop Hunger Now will provide the materials, and the volunteers will package the meals.

"It's an assembly line, so everyone has a job," Samantha van Putten, member of the leadership team and the Global Health Club, said. "One person puts in the rice, one person puts in the beans. It's very productive, but fun at the same time.

"What's unique about an event like this is that you're not just donating money but you're physically creating the meals with your own hands that will be sent to India."

Three or four members of the leadership team are Global Health Club officers and decided to take this event on as an initiative for the fall semester.

They held an awareness week Nov. 1 through Nov. 7 selling chocolate and cookies in the Tyler Haynes Commons and Heilman Dining Center.

Students can also donate a meal swipe in D-Hall Nov. 15 through Nov. 23. When a person agrees to donate a meal, they will get a ticket to give the cashier and this will immediately take a meal for the week.

"We were really pleased with how well our awareness week went," van Putten said. "People were really receptive and were willing to hear about our cause.

"We're really seeing this as a campus unifying event, something that will bring individuals who aren't involved in anything on campus together with Greek life, together with sports teams, together with staff and faculty."

They hoped the leadership team would grow with growing interest.

"We really hope that this will become a tradition at Richmond and something that happens every year," van Putten said.

Maddux said, "Once you do it, you find out how much fun it is, how much you can do with so little."

Van Putten said, "If we're able to continue this for the school in India, then Richmond can build a relationship with that school and I think it creates a more personal aspect to giving and donating that sometimes is lost when you just give money.

"Depending on how it goes this year, who knows, in the future maybe instead of 20,000 meals we'll be making 50,000 meals."

Maddux said: "When you actually have been there and see the people it's touching ... we're going to change lives. ... It will change lives"

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