In India, Saivijay Arra saw homeless families on the streets every day.
When he came to America, where he is working toward a master's degree in mechanical engineering at Old Dominion University, he was surprised by what he saw.
"I never thought the U.S. had homeless people," Arra said. "It's a rich country."
Arra wanted to help in India, but he didn't know where to start. An estimated 80 million people live in homelessness there.
At ODU, the group Global Student Friendship gave him a chance to lend a hand closer to campus.
After football and basketball games, concerts and other campus events, the student group's volunteers gather leftover concession stand food to donate to Union Mission Ministries in Norfolk as part of the Food for the Homeless program. More than 15,000 meals have been donated since Global Student Friendship partnered with ODU's food service provider, Aramark, and the school's Center for Service and Civic Engagement in January 2011.
Kurnia Foe, a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering, founded the student group in 2005 to help bridge the gap between local and international students. When the university reached out to students to help with leftover food donations, Foe jumped at the opportunity. He saw it as a chance to not only aid the community, but also broaden international students' perspectives of America.
"It's providing them a way of serving in the U.S. and inspiring them to bring about change when they go back home," said Foe, who is from Indonesia.
More than 100 volunteers representing 20 countries have volunteered, he said. The average event yields enough to feed 300 people for several days.
"If the food is not donated, it will go into the trash can," Foe said.
After football fans in Monarch blue and silver emptied out of Foreman Field on Saturday, Foe, Arra and eight other volunteers got to work. At the concession stand between gates 103 and 104, soft pretzels, chicken wings and ham biscuits remained, and the volunteers carried them to their cars by the boxfull.
It took only 20 minutes for the volunteers to load up four car trunks, but the haul was significant: 77 pizzas, 80 hot dogs and 43 burgers, along with chicken tenders, prime rib, meatballs and tins filled with chili.
"Imagine that amount of food being wasted," said Frency Varghese, a biomedical engineering Ph.D. student also from India. "You can't even imagine that happening in India."
Arra said he hopes to work in the United States for two years after he finishes his master's degree, then go back to India. Already, the seed has been planted - Arra said he'd like to start a similar program in India.
As the last hot dogs made it into the trunk, Foe looked at the time. If they left now, he said, they could make it to Union Mission in time for the first group of people to arrive for dinner.
"All right," Foe said. "Let's go."
Margaret Matray, 757-222-5150,