Catching Fire in the Hamilton Community

WARNING: Movie Spoiler Alert!

By Arum Choi

Arum has volunteered with Community Volunteer Action since 2007 and is currently facilitating a CVA group that volunteers each week at a women's shelter.


Arum (left) and her group of CVA volunteers visit a local

women's shelter each week where they spend quality

time in the playroom with the children who are staying

with their moms at the shelter.

After watching this movie, I realized that media is a really powerful tool because it made we want to engage even further in social action in addition to my volunteering in the Hamilton community. I approached this fantasy movie as an invitation to go deeper into social justice issues rather than escaping from reality. These stories are interconnected with social concerns that we see in our own communities and the world, where there is a vast gap between the rich and the poor. For example, food consumption between Districts was very distinct: one community suffered from food deficits while another was surrounded with vast quantities of food. This is not just a made-up story in the movie. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2012), approximately 34 million tons of food were thrown away in 2010. We generally over-consume food which contributes to increased obesity rates in children and adults. However, 20% of the population in developing countries is affected by chronic food deficits according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (2000). For those of us who have had little experience with poverty it is hard to picture that someone could die because of malnutrition, simply having no food.
As part of our facilitator training in Community Volunteer Action (CVA), we went for a walk to explore the downtown Hamilton community. We were given a mission to find a meal for less than $3. It was a simple task but a very difficult one. For some of us, when we buy food for a meal we do not usually think much about the cost. We buy whatever we feel like eating on that day. Also, in this exercise, most of us wanted a meal that was nutritionally well balanced but the price was too high. In the end, we got a hotdog on the street. That was the only option we had. In order to complete the task we had to sacrifice something like a preferable food choice or our usual eating habits. When I watched the movie I recalled that challenge, and how we were in a similar situation as Katniss in the movie, although she was brave and strong to fight injustice and take action.
Without volunteering in the Hamilton community through CVA, I would not have been able to reflect after watching the movie. Volunteering educated me in both head and heart and helped me to become a thoughtful, committed, and active citizen. I still doubt myself that I could accept death to change the rules like Katniss did. However, I believe that hope for change in the face of injustice can spread like fire through our community work. Only experience will wake you up to be conscious of social issues and to take action. I want other students to volunteer with CVA because it makes a difference, both in the community and in themselves.