It is often said that among the most difficult obstacles faced by people with disabilities, are the misconceptions of others. In an effort to help the NSU campus empathise, rather than sympathize for disabilities, Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity held their annual Empathy Dinner on March 3, 2009.
Push America, the Fraternity’s philanthropy, serves people with disabilities through fundraising, volunteerism, and awareness. The empathy dinner is designed to allow participants to understand the challenges that accompany living with a disability.
Students, faculty, and other guests were randomly assigned a simulated disability. Some were blindfolded, other participants’ arms were restrained behind their back, while others could not speak. For the duration of the dinner, the guests were asked to interact with each other and also attempt to eat a meal, while portraying their disability. While the outside observer might perceive the event as disrespectful or strange, those involved stressed the importance of the lesson learned.
Chapter president Wil Adams said, “Sometimes you don’t stop to think, how much effort goes into overcoming a disability.” After the dinner, those in attendance discussed what they learned from the simulation and how it will affect their interaction with people living with disabilities. Adams said, “It [the event] generated a lot of questions about Push America, which makes me feel like we accomplished our goal, to raise awareness.”
Over 50 people attended the event, held in the Sylvan Friedman Student Union Ballroom. The evening concluded with a keynote speech from Beta Omicron Chapter alumnus, and former Push America national staff member Rodney Clements. Clements spoke about his experiences with the philanthropy and how Push America has impacted his life. Clements participated in the philanthropy’s cross-country bicycling event, the Journey of Hope, in 2007.
Pi Kappa Phi National Fraternity leadership consultant Walter Pape was also in attendance at the event. The evening raised more than $300 for Push America.