MSA Fast-a-thon inspires students across campus

No food and no water from sunrise to sunset.

That was how hundreds of Stony Brook University students spent Monday, Oct. 8, as a part of the 10th annual ‘Fast-a-thon.’

The students experienced one day out of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan to honor the millions of people around the world who face hunger every day.

The Muslim Student Association (MSA) organized a dinner after sunset in the Student Activities Center where students came together to share both a meal and an experience.

Sanaa Nadim, MSA’s Chaplain at SBU Interfaith Center, came up with the idea 10 years ago, “basically to build bridges of communication and understanding and respect in the campus community and to really show that the MSA is part of the larger campus community,” said MSA Vice President Reem Zohny, a senior sociology and psychology major.

The night started with the ‘iftar,’ a meal to break the day’s fast, followed by MSA President Zain Ali, who is a senior biochemistry and Spanish language and literature major, making the Islamic call to prayer.  For many attendees, the day of fasting served as a time of reflection.

“It was something I haven’t done but I wanted to do at Stony Brook so I wanted to experience it and I wanted to learn more because that’s what college is about,” Pavithra Shunivasin, junior psychology and biology major, said. “You really realize how grateful you are and when you have to watch everything you eat you don’t realize how easy it is to just have a cookie here or there.”

The event brought together students from all over the area as well. New York Institute of Technology student, Prova Shukla, found the ‘Fast-a-thon’ to be a way to reconnect with friends.

“During Ramadan time, we all fast at home but since this is a school environment where all of our friends are, we were allowed to fast together and when you have friends fasting together it makes things a lot easier,” said Shukla.

The proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the organization Long Island Harvest, which provides services to those suffering from hunger in the area, as well as a construction project to build a school in Sierra Leone.

“We were approached by Free the Children initiative here on campus and they asked us for this so we honored that request and we thought that was good because it shows that we’re not only focused on our money or our deprivation of food going towards someone else’s food and quenching their thirst but rather that in giving back to the community,” said Ali. “It’s not in one dimension and we wanted to give back in more than one way.”

“Education is the most fundamental way to give back,” he continued. “You can give a man a fish but teaching him how to fish is completely different.”

Throughout the night, students were asked to share their experiences of what it was like to neither eat nor drink for one day.

For Ali, the highlight of the night was “actually seeing people who aren’t Muslim come out and share their appreciation for fasting and the effect it had on them” in a greater effort to unite the campus community.

This article was originally published in the Oct. 15, 2012 issue of The Statesman.