The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Letter to the Editor: Two Dollar Challenge Response

3 min read

Dear Editor,

The Two-Dollar a Day Challenge (TDC) that recently took place on Ball Circle last week has drawn attention and criticism in recent days. The largest criticism was the staff editorial published in the Bullet that ridiculed TDC for a number of reasons. After participating in the challenge I was a little taken back when I read the editorial and wanted to offer a different perspective. There are two things to take issue with: the first is simply the point of the challenge itself. An online comment in our defense captured one of the motives quite well, “The whole point of the challenge was not to play at being homeless or destitute, but get a feel for how they might live. Might being key word.”

Being disconnected from an issue, like many students are from homelessness, is not something one attempts to bridge mockingly. The students participating arrived fully aware this was not something to be taken lightly and no matter what the imposed rules, nothing could truly represent the hard life that too many live.

Part of what makes TDC unique is the ability to participate in an experience without taking time out from our academics and because of this we accept that it is not a realistic environment.

La Ceiba, for which we raised money, is a student-run microfinance group that works with impoverished Honduran communities, founded by Professor Shawn Humphrey. We were assigned to read “To Hell with Good Intentions” by Ivan Illich who made an argument against missionary work by Inter-American Student Projects in Mexico.

His speech contradicted almost everything LC and TDC stand for. The idea being, as people who are foreign to the issue of poverty and the culture of the country, we have no right to intervene because in doing so we actually cause more harm.

TDC sat down in a group and discussed this speech at length. We did just the opposite of trying to play the role of the poor; we challenged the very values with which we were entered the TDC.

And the trials were frequent.

It is true that indulging in commodities of normal lifestyles was something that happened. Where last week’s editorial misses the point, however, is that this did not “make it all better.” The rules of TDC were self-imposed and we were asked from the beginning that if we ever break them that we recognize how many people did not have that luxury.

Indulgence during TDC is a reminder of the burden that people around the world bear that we do not and, in this case, can not handle. Cheating is humbling and sometimes downright humiliating. This challenge, as participant Santi Sueiro said, helps to heighten our level of caution and understanding when moving to the next step, action.

The second issue is brief and regards the way in which last week’s article was written. I do not deem any criticism of TDC as wrong. As I said, we recognize opinions that disagree.

Publicized opinions are one thing. Slanderous articles in the Bullet are another. To the author of the editorial I would commend them for being good with words. What could make them better is if they had worth: if they had interviewed us and discovered what our actual actions and motives were. If they could justify the use of their rhetoric, maybe then we could take them seriously.

There are many ways to raise awareness for poverty. We believe TDC is a worthy endeavor, and we encourage people to come and ask us, “Why?”

Jeffrey Paddock is a freshman.