Sunday, October 03, 2010
A former work colleague of mine recently started working for an organisation called InterAction. It is a caolition of like minded non-profit organisations working on overlapping human interest issues around the world
A couple weeks ago, as part of the organisation's participation in and objectives to combat World Hunger, the employees were give the task of surviving on $28.00 for a week, which is what has been estimated is the amount of aid currently being disbursed in Haiti. So for a whole week, the employees only had twenty-eight dollars to survive upon.
When he told me this, I guess my reaction was not what he was expecting because I only blinked. Assuming I had not heard what he was talking about, he repeated the amount and I was still staring at him. I was not impressed.
Let me tell you why.
As much as I admire the motivations behind westerners' attempts to highlight a serious issue, one must realise that comparing living on $28/week in the city of Washington DC, USA and Port au Prince, Haiti like comparing oranges and coconuts. Not the same fruit group and thus not the same effects.
In Naira, Nigerian currency, $28 is about N4200 or theareabouts. I am really no longer sure what things cost in a city like Lagos but I think that someone who makes almost N5000 a month can possibly survive well. Not magnificently, but well.
Also, using DC as a template for the experiment is useless because the resources the city have to offer is not the same as the resources that Port Au Prince has to offer. Plus, the experiment was for only one week. If the participants had been asked to move out of their apartments and indeed live off $28/week, then I might have been a bit impressed. But not spending money for a week and going home to sleep in a comfortable apartment with a plasma flat screen is not what the devastated citizens of Haiti are experiencing.
I have lived off less than $28 for an extended period with no idea where sustenance would come from. So for me, the challenge was not a challenge because it was once my life.
Still, it brought whispers of sympathy from the audience that I was consisted of, as my friend explained what he had to do for a week. I just blinked.
But it does pose a question, how much is the least you have had to survive on?