DUBAI // Ehsan Mohammadpour hates asking for favours but it is the only way he can satisfy his hunger.
For the next five days, the 19-year-old student at the Canadian University of Dubai (CUD) will sit cross-legged on a sleeping bag beside a cardboard sign reading "HELP!", relying on nothing more than the kindness of strangers to get food.
"It's humiliating to ask for food. But if you don't donate, we don't eat," said Mr Mohammadpour, who has set up camp inside the CUD grounds with four fellow squatters.
The students have joined the Five Days for the Homeless campaign, in which 24 universities in Canada will take part this month.
It aims to raise money to support homeless people around the world.
The campaign was founded as part of a student initiative at the University of Alberta School of Business, but became a nationwide cause in Canada in 2008.
This is the first time universities outside Canada have participated. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston is also taking part.
Mr Mohammadpour said they were inspired to join after witnessing poverty in their home countries.
"You don't see homeless people here, but I have lived in Iran and have witnessed their situation there."
He and his friends will camp on the CUD sports grounds for 24 hours a day, without any money or access to technology.
They will rely on handouts for food and any cash they are given will go to charity. They can take short breaks for lectures and to use the bathroom.
Tiwa Ompe, 21, an e-Business student, joined the cause in memory of a Canadian beggar.
"A year ago, while on my way to school in Canada, I saw a homeless person as I was on my way to catch the subway," he said. "On my return, I saw the same guy being carried away by the paramedics. He was dead. That shook me."
Mahdi Shishehgar, a marketing student, is the only one allowed to keep a mobile phone for the group's safety.
He said removing luxuries was the only way to understand the plight of a homeless person.
"It's tough looking for food when you know you can't just buy it, or not having a shelter," he said. "We are trying to experience that but also, through it, do our best to help those who are actually homeless."
Mr Shishehgar said he would miss Facebook the most. "How do you live without it? This is going to be a testing time."
Mohammad Anjum, 17, a telecommunication engineering student, said his biggest concern was being unable to bathe for five days.
"When we were visited by one of the founders of the campaign two weeks ago, he said the second and third day would be the toughest because that's when reality kicks in," said Mr Anjum. "We may not be able to feel the same psychological and physical trauma, but he told us to stay genuine."
The students hope to raise between CA$5,000 and $10,000 (Dh18,000 to Dh37,000) for Homeless International. "We have managed to raise about Dh1,000 and believe our friends and sponsors will pitch in during the week," said Mr Ompe.
Victor Esposito, managing director of the national campaign in Canada, said: "What makes this campaign unique is that it is all about communities supporting communities. We want to ensure that the money collected goes back to local charities and non-profit organisations [and not one global fund].
"We hope to expand to more universities in future years. This campaign has grown so much over the past few years and we expect it to continue growing"
The campaign in Canada, supported by more than 24 campuses this year, aims to raise CA$280,000 (Dh1,038,000) this year. Kamal Fodil, vice president of students affairs at CUD, said this week would be a lesson in empathy for the five students.
"They will understand the hardship for someone living on the streets, especially in countries and cities with extreme temperatures," said Mr Fodil, who worked as a counsellor in Canada.
"Despite not seeing many such cases here, it is good to see how dedicated they are to the cause."
For Mr Mohammadpour, giving up his favourite food for the next few days will be his biggest challenge.
"I feel really bad that I have to ask my friends to get me something to eat but I am already hungry. Can someone get me a KFC?"