Rice students build shanty town

September 14, 2009 4:45:14 PM PDT
A group of Rice University students recently gave up their iPods, laptops and TVs, trying to create a better understanding for what the world's poor must endure. With the idea that you don't know poverty until you've lived it, some Rice University students built a shanty town of two by fours and plywood right in the middle of campus.

"We're trying to get people to see this place and see that and to realize that people live like this on a daily basis," said student Jeremy Goodreau.

About 50 students spent four days and three nights in the shacks as part of the project, agreeing to cut out the typical creature comforts of college. Only books allowed. No TV, no computers. There's not even running water, which means no showers.

"It's difficult, but definitely doable and doable because two billion of the world's people do it which they shouldn't have to do," said Elena White.

This is a far cry from the dorms of Rice University.

"Sleeping on the wood was definitely difficult. People live like this every day which is definitely eye-opening," said Christina Rojas.

Eye-opening, in part because they too had to learn to adapt to Mother Nature.

"We'll fix it when it stops raining," said one student.

The students say they wanted to do this to highlight what they consider to be a startling statistic: About 40 percent of the world's population is living on just two dollars a day.

"There's my rice, corn and beans mix," said one student.

That meant subsisting on the most basic of meals, like you'd find in countries where there is abject poverty.

"We're just living on much lower means," said Dan Calderon.

Some of these students have seen that firsthand. They've traveled to poor countries around the world on humanitarian missions. If more people knew just how dire the conditions were, they say maybe folks here might be more willing to help do something about it, even if that's just something right here.

"Here in Houston, we have people living in poverty, sleeping under bridges. Maybe if we bring attention to that, people will step up and help," said James Liu.

If just one person does that, the students say their brief sacrifices could mean a lifetime of changes for the poor everywhere.

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