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Global Poverty on College Campuses: The Two Dollar a Day Challenge

By Opportunity International

Today, Sonya Perez-Lauterbach, manager of Young Ambassadors for Opportunity (YAO) presented about Opportunity’s partnership with the Two Dollar Challenge (TDC)organization to the Development Assistance Task Force at the U.S. Summit for Global Citizenship. Here are a few highlights from Sonya’s presentation…

At Opportunity, we feel strongly that young adults in the U.S. have the skills, broad worldview and passion to help end global poverty during their lifetimes. So we’ve created several global citizen programs focused on young professionals and college-age students. The first is our constituency group YAO, the volunteer-led, staff-supported initiative that educates, inspires and involves younger generations in microfinance and Opportunity’s work to end global poverty.

The second is Opportunity’s partnershipwith Two Dollar Challenge (TDC) organization, founded by economics professor Dr. Shawn Humphrey at the University of Mary Washington. This partnership brings together a leading microfinance organization with grassroots student organizers. Through this program, students on college campuses across the country are awakening to the realities of global poverty and the power that a small business loan can have on people living in poverty. The week-long immersion experience teaches students the challenges of living on just $2 a day and encourages them to become part of the solution by raising funds for Opportunity.

  • We believe there is a powerful connection between citizen diplomacy and effective development programs. Nearly half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. The question is: how do we turn a statistic like that into a call to action that helps reduce hunger and poverty in the world? That’s where donor engagement and volunteer programs can educate, involve and inspire people to help create powerful development programs that can and do change the world.
  • When you hear the numbers, it’s easy to decide that the challenge of extreme poverty is too great, even hopeless, and so you tell yourself that your actions cannot possibly make a difference. At Opportunity, we’ve learned that the issues are so big and broad sweeping, that it’s unrealistic to assume that people know how and where they can help. We need to give people opportunities to make a difference one small step at a time, and it all starts with education.We’re working with Dr. Humphrey and his TDC program, where students live or eat on just $2 per day for one week, to raise money for Opportunity clients in Kenya and Colombia through ourpeer-to-peer lending website, OptINnow. This initiative gives students the chance to make a personal connection with Opportunity’s clients, learning more about their lives and work. Throughout the week, students also create educational opportunities for their peers (i.e. panel discussions, video screenings, etc.) and cool fundraising events like concerts and sports tournaments.We do believe that people of all ages and backgrounds can participate in our movement to end global poverty faster, and so we create educational and experiential opportunities for them as well.
  • We’ve seen that through TDC there is a groundswell of changing of participants’ mindsets. Many $2 Challenge participants are surprised by the difficulty of living your life when your stomach hurts from hunger. Up until now, they have given very little thought about what that would be like to not have enough to eat. During the week- long challenge, they begin to understand the emotional and physical hardships that come from hunger and poverty and so they are better able to understand the clients Opportunity works so hard to serve.One participant wrote, “If this week has taught me anything, it’s perspective. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must be for children to concentrate on their school work when they are hungry all the time.”Another wrote: “Here is what I have learned: There is a lot of need in our world today. While that can be a frightening fact, it can also inspire us to act. As we see pictures and learn more about how our brothers and sisters live just to survive in the U.S. and around the world, we cannot just sit back and watch this cycle continue. I’m not saying everyone has to travel to the poorest country in the world. We are all called to do different things, using our unique talents to improve this world. It is up to us to make the change.”

I feel strongly that the $2 Challenge opens the eyes of students and calls them to act on their newfound knowledge and passion.

For more on the TDC, visit Opportunity’s student resource page atopportunity.org/students and educators can download the TDC Instructor’s Guide here. Check back in with the Opportunity Blog for more updates from the U.S. Summit & Initiative for Global Citizenship Diplomacy, and watch live conference webcasts at the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy website.

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