Playing Poverty

Shin – the co-founder of SHH – and Yappa – an incredible individual who is the first to leave the Copprome orphanage and pursue a college degree – visited my Economic Development class this past Thursday.  Before introducing them to the class, I spent some time getting my students organized to begin the Two Dollar Challenge.  “All right everyone, the Two Dollar Challenge starts this coming Monday.  As you know for five days we will be living on $2 a day…”  I felt a bit awkward completing this sentence.  Here is a young woman who more than likely may have lived on two dollars a day at some point in her life.  It is definite that she knows of people who have had to or continue to survive on that meager amount.  And, here she sits in a classroom of 39 relatively privileged individuals who are listening to their professor organize them to play poverty.  I felt awkward then and I feel awkward again as I sit, less than 15 hours removed from the Two Dollar Challenge, fretting over having to be uncomfortable for the next five days.  I have been anxious about it all week – the caffeine withdrawals, lack of sleep, and downward spiraling performance.  Simultaneously, I am thinking about the people of Siete de Abril.  Their faces flash through my mind: Glendy, Danny, Miquel, Don Benjamin…I respect every one of them.  I want to earn their respect in turn.  But, if they were to ask me about this Challenge, how would I explain it?  What would I say?  What would they think?  I do know that I would feel uncomfortable answering these questions.  For the foreseeable future they will wake up every morning to the same impoverished reality.  Myself?  I will be playing poverty for five days and four nights and then conveniently return to prosperity at exactly 4 pm this coming Friday.  Yet, I still fret.  Yet, I know that there is value in this exercise.  Clearly defining that value for the people of Siete de Abril by the end of this week is my goal.

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Thanks. – shawn

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