My spouse works for an organization called Lutheran World Relief, who has community development projects in many countries, including Haiti. The entire staff decided to try to eat for a week under the average food budget in Haiti. The highly disputed number, after converting it to US dollars, was $34.33, about $5 a day. This seemed shockingly doable at first, although it became abundantly clear that I would be drinking only water and could not eat out. The project is not about succeeding primarily, but raising awareness about how other people live. Here are some of the things I thought about as the week went on:
–I got to pick which day I started and which day I stopped. Privilege. I knew it would end. It was not my perpetual existence.
–No wine, beer or even pop. The quickest shortcut was to drink water, which for me is free. That made me wonder, How is the water in Haiti? Is it drinkable? Is it overly privatized?
–I was offered free food all the time during my week. A student bought me a Jamba Juice one morning. On a teacher inservice day, the staff ate for free. Was accepting this food breaking the rules? Is free food a reality in Haiti? How are social services?
–I decided to spend part of my food budget on medicine because I got so sick that I could not taste my food anyway. I am assuming that it would be similar to the average person in Haiti. Getting medicine may mean not eating as much. How is their health care? Do people in Haiti have to choose between medicine and food?
–Gotta love the carbs. Rice, noodles, bread…I am a vegetarian, so I am used to not having meat. Is this diet sustainable for them? How is the nutrition when $34.33 is not just one week, but forever?
The best part of the week being over was just not having to be as vigilant. It is so nice not to have to plan ahead, count dollars and follow rules. My spouse and I do not eat like royalty by any means, but I was ready to not put so much time and energy into surviving the week. I do believe that all people deserve a dignified life that is not consumed with where the next meal will come from. It was a good exercise in awareness building about my wealth, one that will stick with me as I continue to take steps toward naming my role in making the world more just.