It is impossible to simulate the real agony of poverty in a controlled environment. That said, we believe that the Two Dollar Challenge offers students a starting point from which they can begin to learn more about the harsh reality of poverty. It is this small piece of earned awareness that genuinely motivates students to take further steps towards critically evaluating their role in the process of economic development.  Below we present the results of a survey we conducted (summer 2011) with past participants (from UMW and FRCC), reflections from past participants, and additional information as evidence in support of each of the four goals we hope to achieve with our experiential learning exercise.

Demographics and summary statistics of the survey respondents:

# of Survey Respondents


Participated $2aDay Once


Participated $2aDay More than Once






Earliest Year Participant Graduated


Latest Year Participant Expected to Graduate


GOAL 1: Provide an Opportunity and Motivation to Act

How much did TDC affect your desire learn about and/or help to alleviate poverty?

1: Decreased 2 3: No Change 4 5: Increased
Percentage (%) 2 3 10 44 41


Participating Campus Amount Raised Non-Profit Organization
University of Mary Washington (Spring 2011) $2,500 La Ceiba MFI
Front Range Community College (Spring 2011) $155 Opportunity International
University of Mary Washington (Spring 2010) $2,300 Opportunity International
Front Range Community College (Spring 2010), $375 Opportunity International
University of Mary Washington (Spring 2008), $6,750 La Ceiba MFI
University of Mary Washington (Spring 2007) $1,600 Kiva (see their lender’s page)

“Challenge is over and my roommates at the shelters have dispersed.  I want more.  I want to learn more about what we did, and what we could do. I want to have more engaging, passionate conversations about economics and microfinance.  I want to know all the things that I don’t know, but that I got a glimpse of at the Two Dollar Challenge.  This Challenge has created a passion in me that I have never felt in any other class or activity.  I have never been so excited…not like this.  I want more.”

GOAL 2: Engender Empathy

What affect did TDC have on how much empathy you feel towards those living in poverty?

1: Decreased 2 3: No Change 4 5: Increased
Percentage (%) 0 0 16 33 51

“I can’t overstate the impact that really experiencing it had.  I’ve heard and seen countless people who have transformed in their view of poverty: TDC allowed them to identify with those in poverty as fellow human beings.  Even those who don’t participate, when hearing the stories of those who do, come away with a richer understanding of the complexities of poverty.”

“A process of questioning who I am in the world and what my place is in it. How can one sleep on the cold dirt without being thankful for their own bed and blankets back home? How can one return home to that bed without thinking of the rest of the world who don’t have that comfort? Why am I so lucky? Now what can I do with that?”

“…it is just so glaring that we have got so much more than everyone else.  I am getting frustrated with the fact that even if we want to, Americans have to actively deny even free food in order to “pretend to be poor”.  It is like I am living in a fantasy land where I get to go slumming and come back up whenever I want to.  It IS that, actually.  And, I am not even doing that good of a job of pretending.”

GOAL 3: Inspire Critical Reflection

How much would you say the TDC caused you to reflect critically? Such reflection may be about the purpose or other aspects of the TDC, aspects of economic development, personal development, goals or beliefs etc.?

1: Not at all 2 3: Some 4 5: A lot
Percentage (%) 0 0 5 31 64

“TDC is…an inspiring personal journey. The lesson sticks around. It is worth as much or      more than a semester-long class in terms of its ability to shape perspective and inspire students to change and grow.”

“Some of the deepest, most thought-provoking conversations I’ve ever had have come out of TDC, forcing me to confront issues that often I’d rather just ignore or gloss over, and it’s made me a better person, and I think it will make the development community stronger and more effective.”

“It introduced self-criticism as something we must constantly be doing. Asking ourselves if we really know the best thing for people in absolute poverty, seeing as we have never experienced it ourselves?”

“TDC served as a forum for us to challenge one another’s assumptions about poverty, and to encourage reflective and critical dialogue about poverty and the efficacy of economic development efforts.”

“Rather than just reading dry accounts of poverty, TDC allowed me to really experience some small slice of poverty in a more visceral way, energizing and charging me with a much stronger responsibility towards economic development, while still grounding me with a critical viewpoint towards any potential action.”

“The simple chore of boiling water during the TDC week illustrated how a simple glass         of water – which we can procure in seconds – could be complicated by a lengthy walk to and from a water source and the process of building a fire, boiling the water, and waiting for it to cool.  Even just this one task could take a significant amount of time away from each day for a lifetime, not to mention the other myriad tasks women in developing countries perform daily.  Our infrastructure, technology, and institutions really do give each of us an unspeakably huge advantage.”

GOAL 4: Raise Awareness

How much do you think you contributed to spreading awareness about poverty or other aspects about economic development as a result of your experience in TDC?

1: Not at all 2 3: Some 4 5: A lot
Percentage (%) 10 2 36 26 26

“I got my friends and people I knew involved.  That is neat.  It is hard to just one day           bring up “Hey, so about poverty…” at the dinner table, but it is another thing entirely to bring it up as something you are doing in class.”

“TDC provides a platform for discussion, a reason to start a conversation. Through the living on $2 a day exercise I engaged in conversations with family, local businesses, classmates, and even some media outlets.”

Visit our In the News Page to read newspaper articles, view television shows, listen to radio programs, and link to websites that have covered the $2 a Day Challenge.