For the week preceding Christmas, Covenant’s fifth graders took part in a Dollar-a-Day Challenge to bring to life what we have been learning about Africa. Through our lessons and discussions about eastern Africa, we have discovered that there are incredible beauties in that region, but also incredible hardships that many people face on a daily basis. In Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda, whole families of ten or more people try to survive on $1 a day. This means each person may only eat one meal a day of questionable nutrition, struggling to have energy to work or go to school.
The fifth graders were challenged to live on $1 each school day for one week. Every item they typically use in school had a coin value placed on it, and they faced tough decisions while trying to spend their money wisely. Should they purchase shoes or a water bottle? Should they invest in a mechanical pencil or a regular one, with the risk that they may have to pay for the use of the pencil sharpener? Alongside this, they recorded their reflections in a journal and also discussed them as a class. They began to consider hard truths about sacrificing “wants” for “needs”. If they needed a jacket to go outside for recess, but they also wanted a chair to sit on, they had to decide which was the priority. What could they live without?
Throughout the week, the students grew in their empathy for those countless people who live below the poverty line in countries around the world, particularly in Africa. It was wearisome to do without the cookies in their lunches and chairs, socks, and shoes in the classroom. The allure of sitting on a chilly floor loses its luster after a few hours. They were able to recognize more clearly how difficult it is to manage money, as well as how difficult it is to do without what we would consider necessities in our society. At the end of the week, the kids had the opportunity to donate the money they had used throughout the experiment to missionaries serving with Mission Aviation Fellowship in Eastern Africa.
Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. However, this is difficult if we do not know what our neighbors experience, what they enjoy and love, and what causes their heads and hearts to ache. Though there is certainly much more to learn about the lives of our brothers and sisters in Africa, the fifth graders at Covenant have discovered much about the sacrifices that must be made to live in other parts of the world and what we can do to support others through their struggles.
The following excerpts were taken from the reflections the students recorded in their journals:
- I was very surprised at what people in poverty have to go through. I’ve always been told to be thankful because other people around the world can’t afford things like us, but I’ve always taken it for granted. I think that this challenge is a good lesson, and it helps me to not take things for granted and to be more thankful.
- It would be so, so much harder if we had to have one dollar for the whole day! I find it hard enough to buy one meal, let alone three! I find it hard to provide for myself with only 100 cents a day for only about 6-7 hours in a temperate, safe building.
- I think this challenge helps the class a little more to be kinder and more helpful to each other because if somebody doesn’t have a lunch then sometimes someone else will buy it for them. I feel like that helps me not to expect something in return whenever I do something for someone else.
- Through this week I learned that I should be much more thankful for what I have. I learned how hard it was for the people in Africa to survive on such little money and food. I learned that I should be very thankful that we have clean water and that I don’t have to walk miles and miles to get water.