The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Thought You Knew: False Poverty Offends Tastes

3 min read

Can we take a moment to acknowledge that there are probably better ways to help poor people than pretending to be poor?

It seems like the hungry, the homeless and the barefoot people of the world would benefit a lot more from actual assistance, rather than whatever it is they get when a bunch of liberal arts kids decide to stop showering and sleep under some tarps for a week-long authentic poverty experience.

At the end of the week you get to return to your comfortable life with showers, cell phones and a new sense of self-righteousness.

Choosing to be poor for a week is not only ineffective at solving any real problems, but it’s also kind of insulting.

I understand that the purpose of events like this week’s $2 a day challenge and the TOMS Day Without Shoes, which took place on April 2, is to raise awareness, but, honestly, is there anyone out there who’s unaware of the fact that poor people exist,  and everyone in the position to help should do so?

I can’t completely knock the $2 challenge because the participants do raise money during their little experiment with poverty, but I still don’t quite get why they also need to imitate the people they’re raising money for.

The organization’s website says it’s to “engender empathy,” but if you have to play dress-up with your friends in order to truly feel bad for people who are less fortunate than you, you should consider sensitivity training.

Doesn’t a picture of a barefoot child with flies buzzing around his face make you feel bad enough to take action?

Do you really need to attempt to recreate another person’s very real, very tragic suffering in order to empathize with them?

Personally, I came to college so I wouldn’t have to live in a box, not so I could make believe that I do.If you want to help, do something that’s actually helpful.

There’s no need for sweeping, attention-seeking gestures designed to “raise awareness.”

“Raising awareness” is a lazy cop-out for people who’d prefer to talk about generating change, instead of doing anything useful.

Who really benefits when privileged college students elect to spend one week of the year challenging themselves to live off of $2 a day, just to see what it’s like?

Certainly not the billions of people who are forced to live like that for 52 weeks a year.

Stop advertising how charitable you’re being and just help people because you feel like it’s the right thing to do.

Donate your money to organizations that assist those in need (these organizations will accept your donations, even if you didn’t subsist off of rice and superiority for a week).

Better yet, donate your time. There are a ton of groups on campus that actually do things, like go on builds or put together care packages for the needy.

Or you could just, you know, walk around barefoot for a few hours, once it stops raining, if it’s not too cold.

But, make sure you pack some over-priced, trendy canvas slip-ons in your bag because you might not be allowed inside the dining hall.