The Bartlett House, home of the DePauw Center for Spiritual Life is decorated with twinkle lights, essential oil diffusers, and trickling water features. Among these decorative features is a food pantry. University Chaplain Sami Aziz founded the food pantry a few months ago.
“I saw a need, and I had the space,” Aziz said.
While it is still relatively new to DePauw’s campus, Aziz’s project has already grown beyond what he had initially imagined. Within the small room that it occupies, there are cans of soup, cereal, snack foods, and even an array of donated books.
Students can access the Bartlett House with key card access 6am to 1am and are welcome to give or take from the food pantry freely, no questions asked.
Most of the donations have come from students and faculty, as well as Aziz himself. However, according to Aziz, if interest continues to rise, he plans to partner with Student Government to fund the construction of a larger pantry connected to the space it currently occupies.
Food is an important part of the Muslim tradition, to which Aziz adheres. His philosophy is that by nurturing the body, you also feed the soul. Along with the food pantry, Aziz has been hosting Curry Fridays this semester, every week at noon. At these lunches, Aziz prepares and serves homemade ethnic food for free.
“Part of the religion, a core part, is feeding people,” Aziz said. “Taking care of people.”
The Center for Spiritual life has taken on various roles, attempting to fulfill student’s needs. The staff there work with the intention of feeding the hungry in more ways than one.
So while it is decorated with lights, essential oil diffusers, and water features, Aziz claims that these were not placed randomly. “Everything was purposefully done,” Aziz said, “to create an environment where people feel peace and feel welcome.”
In the garden area just outside the house, Aziz has plans to construct a koi pond, complete with a waterfall, and a treehouse for meditation in the space.
“One thing we know about people who are hungry,” he said, “is that they often don’t have access to things like waterfalls and koi ponds.”
These luxuries will be added with the intention of providing a space for healing. Aziz claims that healing is accomplished through the body and the soul, needs for both of which will be met by the meditation spaces and food resources.
Another aspect of healing that is conducted through the Center is largely societal. Curry Fridays is a social outreach program that centers around the many social, economic, and ethnic groups that benefit from the Bartlett House’s resources. Aziz hopes that these divides, while complicated, will seem smaller while sharing a free meal.
“A big part of healing disparity in our society is having the rich and the poor, everyone, sit together and have a meal.”