photo by Manal Salim


photo by Manal Salim

“One person dies of hunger nearly every three seconds.”

These words she uttered resonate in my mind to this day. I remember my hand froze before I could finish pouring the last few grains of rice into the bag.

I stopped and thought about what the spokeswoman from the Stop Hunger Now organization had just said, and in that moment I realized the simple task I was performing would make a life-changing difference in someone’s life. It was as though a barrier had been lifted, as I was now able to see the reality of the situation, and the direct correlation between the rice packaging I was performing and the life-saving meals that would be provided as a result.

In November I stood among the hundreds of other Columbians participating in the “Spread the Peace; Feed the Hungry” project, co-sponsored by the Islamic Center of Central Missouri and the Stop Hunger Now organization. I remember being astounded by the 150 people who had gathered to support the event, and how quickly everything got started. We were all assigned a duty, mine being to weigh the bags of rice and adjust the amount in the bag to the proper weight. Everything suddenly started buzzing as volunteers diligently performed their designated tasks as I concentrated on mine as well.

Why was I participating in this activity? Perhaps I did it to be a part of the community or be alongside my friends, but in all honesty, I didn’t have a defining reason as to why I was partaking in the event.

I didn’t have a reason until the wise words of the spokeswoman emanated from the megaphone. In that moment, the fruits of my labor suddenly became a reality. Weighing bags of rice was a seemingly simple task for me to perform, but those exact same bags would be the difference between life with a full stomach or death from hunger for another person, perhaps across the world. From this realization, the job I was undertaking became so much more meaningful. I perfected my measurements, and put a little more heart and soul into those bags.

From that day, I carry the reminder that every act of contribution to society will impact both my life and the lives of others. I learned that volunteerism shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it is an extremely meaningful, important and necessary action to consistently carry out. What may take a few minutes of my time will eventually contribute to a greater good, either now or in the near future, and could make a life-changing difference in someone else’s life.

Keeping this notion at the forefront of my mind, I decided to participate in various acts of volunteerism, including teaching at the mosque weekend school, making Linus blankets and cleaning streams for service clubs at RBHS. In addition, I am even more determined now to pursue a career as health professional to ensure I will have the chance to have a greater impact on the well-being of society.

One person every three seconds, meaning 600 people, would have lost his or her life to hunger by the time I finish writing this commentary. But that doesn’t mean I, or anyone else, should merely mope about with that information. Rather, it is important to realize the many volunteer opportunities Columbia presents to its residents. Any volunteer work one participates in is a step in the right direction. Regardless of the activity, I realized volunteerism has allowed me to not only grow as a person in the variety of experiences I had a chance to engage in, but also allowed me to realize the many lives I’ve been lucky enough to directly impact through the many opportunities I have been a part of.

By Manal Salim

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Manal Salim. A name known to all in the journalism room. A name associated with rainbows and sunshine. If she isn’t smiling and asking what she can do for others, Manal is nearly dying of embarrassment from the constant compliments that her friends shower her with. No one can resist smiling in her presence. Manal is the epitome of happiness and is the only one who can justify the writing of a bio as cheesy as this. Unaffected by the mother nature, neither heat nor sunshine affects Manal’s porcelain face. Looking at Manal is like looking into the sun: always bright, always happy, but without the obnoxious constant “glass is half full” outlook that seems to get on people’s nerves. Or at least mine. So do yourself a favor and get to know her. Written by Trisha Chaudhary. Contact Manal at


  1. Volunteering helps not only the beneficiary, who gains something they need to survive, but the volunteer, who gains a sense of community and knows that they have done something more than worrying about themselves. Thanks for boosting awareness!


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