Students simulate living in poverty

Mon, 2006-10-23 12:53 -- univcomm
October 23, 2006

“It all sort of started when I read the statistic that 53 percent of the world lives on $2 a day or less,” says Anderson University junior David Hynds. Hynds was speaking of his project Living in Poverty, which invites participants to spend one week living on $2 a day. Fifty-five people signed up for the endeavor, which ran from April 2-9. “Basically how it works is participants live on $2 a day, and that $2 covers regular daily expenses that you have — any food, laundry, any social activities you want to do, and personal purchases,” says Hynds. Hynds went on to explain that necessary expenditures, such as rent, utilities and gas money are not included.

“We didn’t want anyone getting fired or evicted,” says Hynds.

The 55 participants were divided into smaller groups of 10 to 12 people, and each group shared in community meals every night.

“Everyone brings a dollar, so if seven people come you’ve got seven dollars to spend on the meal,” says Hynds. “And then everybody shows up to eat and talk about what’s been going on. We share good ideas, our struggles.” Most of the people who were able to finish the simulation were those who attended the community meals.

Hynds says his goal was to get a glimpse into the world of poverty, while also helping people who actually live in poverty. At the end of the week, all of the money that participants would have spent beyond their $2 was donated to charity.

“One of the things you have to realize in this scenario is it’s not going to be exactly what it’s like for somebody living in poverty,” says Hynds. “But you get a glimpse. You go to sleep hungry and wake up hungry, and all you think about is food. And you see all you take for granted. Before I never thought twice about spending $4 or $5 at Starbucks. That’s two or three days’ wages for some people.”

Hynds first launched the project during the fall semester on a much smaller scale with about 15 participants. It acted as a trial run to work out potential problems for doing it on a larger scale.

“We were able to work through a lot of problems, and this time I was able to draw on that first group to sort of help me delegate responsibilities and coordinate things.”

Hynds says that he would definitely like to do Living in Poverty again, hopefully on an even bigger scale.

“It’s about realizing how much we take for granted,” says Hynds. “The first time we did it there was a night when we fed 12 people on $4. You’re paying as much at Starbucks for a drink as it cost to feed a dozen people.”

—Andrew Young [Signatures: Fall, 2006]