UI students partake in first Two Dollar Challenge on campus


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Two-and-a-half dozen eggs, one bag of black beans, one bag of brown rice, and a six-pack of Ramen noodles.


Jonathan Wesler carefully selected the smorgasbord of food Monday night, preparing to live for the week on what he had collected in his shopping basket. The total came to $7.41.

Welser and other UI students are participating in the first $2 Challenge at the UI, which began Monday and will end Friday. The challenge is hosted by the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi.

The challenge urges students to put themselves in a position similar to those living on $2 a day, who make up almost half the world's population, according to the World Bank. Roughly 30 students have chosen to participate.

"It's called the $2 Challenge for a reason," said Welser, Delta Sigma Pi's vice president of community service. "It's going to be very challenging."

Though many students know about the dire food conditions much of the world's population experiences, Zach Curtis, a UI United Nations Association member, said it has yet to become a reality for them.

"The challenge is going to force us to really think about how these people struggle every day," said Curtis, who is also participating in the challenge. "We aim to raise awareness and not make people feel guilty, but instead shed light on the situation."

The week of the challenge will be considered Global Citizenship Week on campus, featuring a combined effort of student organizations to expose struggles in Third World countries.

Welser said each participant in the $2 Challenge gained sponsors to pledge a sum of money the students will receive after the challenge. The proceeds will go to help establish microfinancing efforts, small loans given to poor individuals looking to start a business. The business fraternity will select which entrepreneurs, located in Third World countries, will receive the donations.

"We decided to fund microfinance because it's an innovative way to help people help themselves," Welser said.

Enrique Carrasco, the director of the UI Center for International Finance and Development, said microfinance is a "good credit risk."

"It is well-known that the repayment rate is very high," he said, and microfinance is beneficial for both the borrower and their community. "The person would be able to start a business and hopefully climb out of poverty."

While microfinance occurs everywhere, Carrasco said, it is usually associated with developing countries.

Once the loan is repaid and credited to the fraternity's account, Welser said, they will take the money and reapply it toward another individual in need.

Welser said he hopes that the $2 Challenge will provide participants with a tangible experience and foster a sense of global responsibility.

"We have a very comfortable life, and we shouldn't take it for granted," he said.

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