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The Blue & Gray Press | November 23, 2017

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Shantytown goes global

ELISE MINNICK

After living in boxes for a week, seniors Courtney Hayes and Erin Kelly had reason to start raising money.

But not for themselves.

Hayes and Kelly were recognized for their efforts in UMW’s $2 A Day Challenge by the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) at The University of Texas in Austin February 13 – 15.
“We are changing fundraising methods—this is the new Walkathon,” added Hayes.
The girls were recognized for their work in the Poverty Alleviation sector of CGI U.

“One –half of the world’s population lives on two dollars a day or less,” Hayes said, explaining the cause for their initiative.

The $2 A Day Challenge is a yearly event in which University of Mary Washington students live for five days on $2 a day or less.

“[It’s] an innovative program that acn go to all schools,” Hayes said.

The students live, essentially, the way a person in an impoverished country lives: they have to boil water to purify it before drinking it, are only allowed to have two outfits, and can only use electricity when the sun is up.

“The shantytown is hard to miss,” Kelly said. “People want to know what is going on.”

CGI U is an “information exchange for Poverty Alleviation, Human Rights, Education, Health, and Climate Change,” according to Kelly.

The organization is a subset of the Clinton Global Initiative, which was created in 2005 for individuals and non-profit organizations that want to use practical goals to facilitate global change. CGI U focuses on students and youth organizations as a catalyst for global change and awareness.

According to Kelly, the conference featured “panel discussions with groups such as TOMS Shoes and Women for Women International.”

The last day of the conference, the groups got to “do service projects in Austin and help the community there, which was interesting,” according to Hayes.

Kelly applied for participation in the CGI U conference.

“There were 3000 applicants for the CGI U meeting,” Kelly said. “Out of those, 1000 groups were selected, and 70 groups were awarded, and we were one of those 70 groups.”

“I did not realize we were such a big deal,” Kelly said in regards to their recognition at the conference.  “People are more excited nationally than I thought they would be.”

“We were there with schools and organizations sponsored by the Wal-Mart Foundation, the Dell Foundation, and Amnesty International, which was huge for us,” she said.

“People were coming to us saying other people told them they ‘had to see the $2 A Day Challenge booth;’ it was great to see the national interest in our organization,” Hayes said.

The profits and donations that go to the $2 A Day Challenge are sent to microfinance organizations.  These organizations give small amounts of money to people in need, which then goes toward individual economic development, like starting a business.

These people learn to “become better on their own,” according to Hayes, and eventually do not require any monetary assistance.

“This is the first year the $2 A Day Challenge has gone national, and now about 15 schools participate in it,”  Hayes said.

“Students are more aware of poverty,” she added, which is why the group was recognized nationally.
Hayes explained that CGI U recognized the $2 A Day Challenge because the Challenge offers “every day solutions to major problems.”