Nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. And this April, students at colleges and universities across the nation will too.
For the ninth consecutive year, the University of Mary Washington will lead the national Two Dollar Challenge to raise awareness of global poverty April 6-10.
The 5-day awareness program challenges college and high school students across the United States to live on just two dollars a day. Participants buy food, hygiene products and other necessities out of two dollars a day while following other rules designed to simulate obstacles faced by people living in poverty.
Founded at UMW in 2006, the Two Dollar Challenge is now a national educational movement in partnership with Oxfam America and Results. The challenge is run by eight UMW students and Professor of Economics Shawn Humphrey – all on $50 and volunteer support.
At UMW, students will spend the week living and sleeping in make-shift shelters built from cardboard boxes and tarps as part of an experiential learning experience.
“I do the challenge to pull myself out of my comfort zone,” said senior James Hutcheson, who will be participating this year for the fourth time. “It challenges the way I view the world and it’s given me an incredible amount of empathy and tolerance for humankind.”
This year, even UMW President Richard Hurley is getting involved.
“It’s an opportunity to get a glimpse of how many people throughout the world live from day to day,” said Hurley. “I’m not the least bit surprised that UMW is leading this campaign. We attract students and faculty who are socially conscious and act on their beliefs.”
During the week, students also raise funds for La Ceiba, a microfinance institution founded by UMW students to provide economic, social and educational support to the El Progreso community in Honduras. Through its partnership with Oxfam America and Results, the challenge also will raise awareness and support for lifesaving, effective foreign aid.
Developed by UMW students, the Two Dollar Challenge app will allow participants to track expenses and income, experience environmental and economic ‘shocks’ that impact their daily earnings, and record daily reflections.
“The app will unify and streamline the two dollar challenge experience,” said junior Sepher Sobhani, lead developer for the app. “A single shock can affect participants from all parts of the country, creating a greater sense of community.”
The organization also has created a “Two Dollar Challenge” group in Reacht, an app created by a Fredericksburg-based technology startup that engages users by pushing out questions.