Global Hunger Fast Day 1: Give ’til it Hurts

Posted: April 17, 2011 in Life in the Philippines
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Today was Palm Sunday, but we observed it a little differently than usual this year: today was also the first day of the Global Hunger Fast, an experiment in voluntary poverty for rich Westerners. For this week, we are trying to do what billions of people around the world for their entire lives: live on $2 a day. A big reason why Laura and I wanted to do this is that poverty is one of the main factors in the supply side of trafficking and prostitution; many of the women at Samaritana and IJM came from $2 a day situations. So in this small way, we hope to gain some small understanding of the choices–or lack thereof–that lead so many people down these hard roads.

Here were our expenditures today (using an exchange rate of 45 pesos to the dollar, or P90 apiece per day, P180 for Laura and me):

38–1/3 bag of clementines (a foolish, short-sided and expensive mistake!)
15–three eggs
10–two pieces of bread

36–transportation to

Lunch & Dinner
15–half kilo of rice
10–mixed vegetables
5–one head of garlic
10–two onions
10–single-serving cooking oil

6–sample-size toothpaste
6–sample-size laundry detergent

Total: P186.

Of the many impressions we had today, perhaps the most striking to me was that for the poor, every decision involves money. Everything has a cost; everything must be factored into the ever-present mental tally. For example, we walked 45 minutes home from church in 90° heat because if we hadn’t, we would’ve only had onions and rice for lunch and dinner. And at 34 years old, going to church itself was a sacrifice: those 36 pesos we spent on public transportation would’ve bought two pieces of fried chicken from the street vendor–and I wouldn’t be as hungry now. And those five pesos we tithed? That was an egg we were dropping out of our lunch and into the collection bag.

The funny part is that the Old American Me would write tithing checks of hundreds of dollars, and not even feel it. The presence or absence of that much money made no appreciable difference in our lifestyle. And we were “middle class.” And yet today–tithing the equivalent of 11¢–for the first time I understood what it meant to “give ’til it hurts.”


  1. jen says:

    Wow. What a mentally exhausting life, where every peso spent requires a cost-benefit analysis. It stings a little to realize that Jesus is probably a little disappointed I so rarely “give ’til it hurts.”

  2. Denver says:

    Bravo, you guys. BRAVO.

  3. amillah says:

    got this link from ryan. great blog and fascinating exercise. it also makes you appreciate the value of backyard gardens; mixed-use, bike/ walk-friendly neighborhoods; and a vegetarian diet! one suggestion: munggo (beans) – one pack makes a lot, good for several meals.

    • freeisaverb says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, and thanks for visiting the blog and commenting! We’ve found ourselves eating mostly vegetarian just because of the cost, but we’ve also realized that produce is a luxury, which hurts especially during mango season here. If we eat produce, we pay for it somewhere else.

  4. amillah says:

    oh yeah and this also explains why you can buy almost everything in tingi (small portions) here 🙂

    • freeisaverb says:

      Yup. Our thoughts exactly. The women we work with at Samaritana definitely live day to day. It’s pretty hard to conceive of saving when there’s nothing left to save.

  5. paderewski says:

    i applaud the effort. tomorrow, try what most family’s reality would be: $2 for both of you and not $2 multiplied to two. good luck and keep it up 🙂

    • freeisaverb says:

      I’m guessing you’re probably right about this. It’s something we talked about quite a bit before doing this exercise, and finally realized that we couldn’t actually do it on $2/family. Also, we weren’t sure if the statistic that 50% of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day meant per person, or per family. But your comment convicts me . . . maybe next year?

  6. Debbie Oberg says:

    This is challenging me on a new level. Thanks for all that you both are doing on so many levels.

    • freeisaverb says:

      Thanks so much, Aunt Debbie, and thanks for reading this and commenting. Our hope all along is that this year can be a blessing not just to the women here, or us, but to anyone back home who is following what we’re doing here. Thanks for being part of that. It means so much to us.

  7. […] population does. It was eye-opening, challenging and unexpectedly rewarding (see this recent series starting here). As with the rest of our time here, we were honored by responses from friends and […]

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