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.