Two Dollar Challenge Draws 50-Plus UMW Students

More than 50 University of Mary Washington students are participating in Two Dollar Challenge Week, living on $2 a day in makeshift shelters on Ball Circle through Friday, April 8 to raise awareness of global poverty and microfinance.

Nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. UMW students take part in Challenge Week by living and sleeping in shelters built from cardboard boxes and tarps for five days as part of an experiential learning exercise.

The Two Dollar Challenge (TDC) organization and educational movement, founded at UMW in 2006, has encouraged other U.S. colleges and high schools to participate in Challenge Week during April as part of TDC’s first national Month of Microfinance. Three other campuses have pledged to join in, and a few others may sign on, said Shawn Humphrey, associate professor of economics.

About 55 UMW students signed up for this year’s Challenge Week—a record number of participants for the initiative, now in its fifth year. Students buy all food, hygiene products and other necessities out of $2 a day while following other rules designed to simulate obstacles faced by people living in poverty.

During the week, students also raise funds for a microfinance institution to help impoverished people. UMW will donate proceeds to La Ceiba, an organization founded by UMW students to provide economic, social and educational support to the El Progreso community in Honduras.

Challenge Week “takes you out of your element,” said Meredith Greenwell ’11, national president of the Two Dollar Challenge organization. “You’re living on significantly fewer calories than on a regular basis. This allows us to recognize our own affluence, figure out how to use it in our lives and constantly criticize your use of that wealth.”

Two Dollar Challenge has received national recognition in recent weeks. The organization was invited to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University in San Diego, Calif., based on TDC’s Commitment to Action proposing this year’s Month of Microfinance. Two Dollar Challenge also was invited to participate in the global university’s exchange, a selective opportunity for self-promotion granted to only 30 organizations.

In addition, TDC was promoted on the Microfinance Gateway, a microfinance industry platform, and within the Microfinance Gateway weekly bulletin, sent to more than 10,000 readers.

For more information on the Month of Microfinance and Challenge Week, visit or contact Shawn Humphrey at (540) 654-1487 or