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UMW students live on $10 a week to raise money for entrepreneurs in Honduras
Students built their shantytown on Ball Circle on the university's Fredericksburg campus using found items.
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BY JEFF BRANSCOME
University of Mary Washington students who lived on $2 a day last week wondered whether they were competing with homeless people for food.
After a macroeconomics class, some went Dumpster-diving for bagels at the Park & Shop retail center on the U.S. 1 Bypass. Others retrieved donuts behind a nearby Dunkin' Donuts. And a professor begged for coffee on a daily basis.
But unlike the chronic homeless, these campus crusaders knew their situation was temporary. The project, in which 35 students lived on $10 last week, ended Friday at 4 p.m.
One student's friend called her a "fobo," meaning fake hobo.
"This year, I've been more reflective about whether this is a legitimate project," said economics professor Shawn Humphrey. "This is an imperfect tool, but it may be the best tool I have" to give students a feel for what it's like to be poor.
Humphrey started the project last year to raise money for business loans for poor entrepreneurs in developing countries. This year, students solicited donations with the goal of issuing $50 to $200 business loans to people in the impoverished Honduran town of Siete de Abril. As of last week, they had raised $2,200 with a goal of $5,000.
Next semester, Humphrey hopes to work with a class to form a nonprofit microfinance institution in conjunction with Students Helping Honduras--a philanthropic group founded at UMW.
In a makeshift shanty town near the main walkway of the Fredericksburg campus, members of UMW's chapter of Students Helping Honduras built a hut last week in a matter of hours. The walls were made of plywood, orange plastic bags and flattened beer cases.
Turns out, Humphrey said, the shelter made for suitable office space. He sat on a red car seat, which a student found behind a shopping center, and sold T-shirts for a minimum of $10. Several passersby, including one prospective student's parents, bought the "$2 a day challenge" shirts.
"Once you explain the cause and what we're trying to accomplish, people are just really enthusiastic," said senior Samantha Oliver, who wore jeans, pink sandals and a UMW sweatshirt on a recent cool night. She's the president of UMW's economic development club.