Belmont Community Leaders

Ubuntu Purpose Project with the Mocha club

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Yesterday was day 7 of my week living below the line. I ate my last meal of rice, green beans, and a boiled egg for dinner. I saved my green beans for this last day because I love green beans, and I figured it would be special to have them yesterday. I completed my week of feeding myself on $1.50 a day.

So what have I learned? I fed myself on $1.50 a day. I did not truly live on $1.50 a day. I did not truly live below the line. Living below the line would require so much more from that $1.50. That $1.50 is stretched out to fund much more than food for 1.4 billion people- it funds transportation, healthcare, clothing, housing, etc. I drove my car when I needed to. I live in a house that my parents pay for. I slept in a bed with about 10 pillows protecting my silly head from the darkness of night. My house is air conditioned and has plenty of room to house my parents, my sister, and myself. The day before yesterday, I went to the eye doctor and had to order new contacts. The cost of the visit along with new contacts totals up to about $175. That could fund living expenses for people living below the line for nearly 17 weeks. 17 weeks. 2,856 hours. I knocked that amount out in one hour at the eye doctor. One hour. I am typing this little post on my stark white Apple MacBook (which is adorned with a pretty turquoise protective case) as I listen to Norah Jones from my special little speakers. Excess. I did NOT live on a $1.50 a day. But have I been humbled? Completely. 

Since January I have experienced a change in my perspective. I have been intentionally trying to value each life equally- without judgement, label, categorization. Now I know that seems like something that is a given. “All men are created equal.” We are raised on this. But after much thought, I realized that I did not live that way (and I still don’t). I learned that my eyes are tainted, clouded, biased. Do I truly value each life equally? No. That is so hard to confess to. How often do overlook people that are different from me? How often do I not share love with those that scare or intimidate me simply because they look differently, dress differently, talk differently, live differently? How often do I mentally, subconsciously label people as unworthy of friendship without even knowing their life experience, without knowing what life looks like behind their eyes? Too often. How often am I trapped in my little “life is sunflowers” bubble and not even consider the 1.4 billion people who are living in extreme poverty? I will not allow myself to live in that mindset anymore. So how does this relate back to my week below the line?  

Our hearts all beat the same. My heart beats the same as a twenty year old girl who truly lives on $1.50 a day in Kenya. We titled our project “ubuntu” which means I am what I am because of who we all are.”  I am because she is. I am because you are. We are all connected, and it is so very beautiful. But I am left wondering why I was born into this brilliant life with opportunity, with love, with security, with grace? Why are so many others born into a life where they will always be left in need? Why is it that in our own country, our own communities, there are people who are always left in need? I cannot answer this question. I have asked my dad that question many times. Both of my parents have lived out lives of service through education and impacted many lives by educating, mentoring, and loving young people in my community. My dad always answers by saying, “You do what you can with what you have where you are.” We can all do that. If we can help one person, love person, shine a light for one person, then we are living out what it means to serve - we are living it out what it means to be human. I am what I am because of who we all are.

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Day 4 on the grind

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Day Three: Living Under the Line is Not So Fine

This whole experience has been harder than I thought it was going to be. Transportation hasn’t been a main issue…I’ve been taking the bus around town and walking up to 9 miles a day! It’s made me appreciate having a car more…but it has also been really peaceful and rewarding getting around my community by foot. I have also found the farmer’s market a great cheap way to attain fruits and vegetables at an incredibly cheap price…a bundle of bananas were only 66 cents! I was able to get a bag of lentils, rice, and quinoa for all under 9 dollars. So far, my diet has been very bland…and I’m finding it difficult to fill up on the ingredients I bought. Day 3 in and I’m really craving some pizza and donuts! But this whole experience has really been enlightening and has made me appreciate everything I have previously been taking for granted.

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Day Two: A Learning Experience

The title says it all. Not gonna lie.. Today was HARD. I’ve officially eaten ramen noodles and some sort of bean for six straight meals. Ramen seemed like a really great idea at first so that I wouldn’t have to worry about buying any other spices, but holy cow does chicken flavor get old.. Particularly when you eat it for breakfast. Bad decisions, folks. 

On top of that, I was so proud of myself for buying dry beans so that I would have an authentic experience cooking them myself. Let’s just preface this by stating that the instructions on the bag say that the “quick” method should only take an hour. Now let me be the first to tell you, the quick method does NOT work. I was hungry when I started cooking, and two hours later was still hungry as the beans continued to soften.. The first two didn’t do the trick. It is now 7 hours later and the beans are finally done…

The whole bean incident led to some trouble in paradise, though… 

First of all, I was practically starving (considering the only thing I had eaten today was two bowls of ramen (technically one - I stretched one package for two meals) with some lentils mixed in..) by hour two of the bean cooking, so I cracked open one of the cans of corn I bought and another half pack of ramen and completely devoured it all. But of course that wasn’t enough, so about 20 minutes later I found myself outside in our garden shamelessly stuffing my face with baby cherry tomatoes, because I figured that those were free so they didn’t count.. 

Second, then I went for a four mile run and got so ravenous (beans still weren’t ready) that I caved and accepted a chicken taco, grapes, and gatorade from my aunt… In all honesty, there was no arm twisting involved. I’m a little ashamed.. But I did learn a valuable lessons from all of this, and from a few other things I’ve experienced. 

1. Trying to eat on a budget of $1.50 is a lot harder when the people around you have normal food and are offering it to you constantly, claiming it’s “a charitable donation. Don’t they have homeless shelters or something in Africa?” - answer: no. I consider this cheating..which I did. 

2. Attempting to use $1.50 to cover transportation, particularly in Houston, TX, is really hard. I’ve driven two days in a row, simply because I had to be somewhere at a specific time and would have gotten killed had I tried to ride my bike or walk (there were highways involved). 

3. Although I’m learning much different lessons than I anticipated, what I don’t think I’m learning is what it feels like to live in Africa. I think that the experience of living on $1.50 a day in a place like Kenya has to be entirely different, and even after this week I won’t truly know what that’s like. I will only know the struggles that come with this specific challenge. 

Though these lessons weren’t at all anticipated, I’m still entirely grateful for them because I think that they put the differences between our lives here and the lives of the people overseas in great perspective. The struggles are different. Each day and each experience is different. But I am humbled and filled with gratitude for my circumstances, nonetheless. 

More to come. 

Kate W.

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Today is day two of our week long challenge. I went to the store the night before the challenge began and ended up with a carton of eggs, 6 bananas, a bag of brown rice, 2 cans of black beans, 1 can of lima beans, 1 can of chick peas, 1 can of green beans, and 1 can of corn. I spent $9.04 when I had a $10.50 budget. Kate did better than me by spending under 8 dollars!!

The project gave me perspective from the moment I went shopping. I did self check out so I could watch the total and make sure I didn’t go over $10.50. I felt my anxiety rising as I scanned each item. In my situation, I would simply return an item - no big deal. But I thought about if I was a mother, providing food for 3 children and being at the register with the total cost of my groceries rising and rising. What if I honestly only had $10.50 in my wallet and the total went over that amount? How embarrassed, mortified, and defeated would I feel? That feeling of anxiety truly resonated with me. How often do I just go to the grocery, pick out what I WANT, and swipe my card?

Yesterday for breakfast I ate half of a banana and an egg. For lunch I ate a small bowl of brown rice with black beans. I had the other half of the banana for a snack, and then for dinner I had black beans and brown rice again.

Cooking rice from the bag is a task! I had to keep it on the stove for about 45 minutes (and it still turned about kind of gummy). I am going to have to plan for the rice cooking in the upcoming days because it was not quick meal to fix. After one day, I am already not really looking forward to have rice everyday. Even mixed with the black beans it is pretty bland.

Listen to me. My food was pretty bland. I am already disappointed in myself for commenting on the lack of flavor. For 1.4 billion people, food is not for pleasure, it is not to be a flavor heaven - it is just a means of energy, it is used to sustain life. After one day, this process is impacting my perspective on food. I hope I learn something everyday if the process because I need to be shaken a little bit. I need my heart to be humbled and I am praying that this process will lead to a change in my life.

Love love and more love

Savannah

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Living Under the Line: Day One

So the project is over. We came extremely close to our goal, and are still waiting on a check, but have run out of time for online donations. I’m so incredibly proud of all that we’ve achieved together and all the hard work we’ve put in, but it’s not over! As our fundraising portion of the project ended, a new portion of our project begun: living under the poverty line. For the next week, we’ll be living on $1.50 a day to cover all expenses (including food, transportation, healthcare, the works). 

Yesterday, in preparation for the week under the line, I went shopping for the food that I anticipated would cover all of my meals for the next week. Here’s what I ended up with. 

Yum. I know. I was really proud because all of this only cost me $7.55, and I left thinking I would maybehave enough to feed me for a week. Let me just tell you, I think this could probably feed me for three weeks, based on the fact that I was able to make one big soup to fulfill all three of my meals today and hardly put a dent in my supplies. 

However… All three of my meals today consisted of lentils and ramen all mixed up into one big soup… I already miss fruits and vegetables so much it hurts, and I’m only on day one.. 

Needless to say, this isn’t easy.

Ramen gets old, beans get old, and at some point rice will probably get old too; but that’s what makes this experience so humbling. After one day, I already can’t imagine what it would be like to have hardly any fresh food to eat each day. I can’t imagine what it must be like to eat the exact same things all the time. And more than that, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be hungry even after eating those things, because the food I have is still plentiful. I crave variety, but I know that even with what I’ve bought for myself, I’m still privileged. My stint eating the same things each day ends in 6 days. The children I raised money for live this life every single day of every single year, and that’s almost unfathomable. 

On top of that, I’m really struggling with trying not to use my car to get places. It rained today and I had a babysitting job and a job interview (which was 10 miles away from where I babysat, with only a 15 minute window of time in between). I had to use my car, but I felt like I was cheating. I read a story about a week ago about a child who walked 8 miles to and from school each day, leaving his hut two hours before he needed to be there. And here I am complaining about some rain and a 30 minute job interview I had to get to… 

This experience is going to be incredibly difficult and humbling, I know, but I’m not sure that I’ll ever understand fully what it feels like to live the lives that the kids we worked so hard to send to school live each day. However, knowing that makes the work that we did so much more worth it to me. These children aren’t just deserving; in my mind, they’re entitled. 

With love,

Kate W.

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$1000 away from reaching our goal

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela.

I believe in this whole-heartedly. This is why we are so passionate about our Purpose Project. Education is empowering, it unlocks futures, and leads to social change. Time is running out, but we have worked SO hard this week trying to get the word out about our project. We have had an exciting week of fundraising! It has been so special and encouraging, but also quite exhausting. 

On Tuesday, we planned an ENTIRE fundraiser teamed up with Sweet CeCe’s in one day.  The Sweet CeCe’s in Hillsboro offered to work with us. Initially, they said that it would be impossible to plan a fundraiser in one day. We planned to have it on Wednesday night. Then I looked at the weather and saw that it was going to be cold and rainy on Wednesday night. Who wants FroYo when it is cold? Not me. So I emailed them back, and pretty much begged them to let us have the fundraiser that night (Tuesday) when it was 75 degrees outside perfect weather for some FroYo. So at 10:30 am we had until 7 pm that night to advertise and plan a fundraiser night at Sweet CeCe’s. We exploded on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram trying to get the word out. I left post it notes on the halls and elevators of my dorm. I texted everyone I know at Belmont to come out and bring there friends. Kate W, Kate K, and myself sat in front of our student life center for an hour sharing the info about our cause and the event to students that walked by.

It was the perfect night to celebrate the end of the semester, friendship, education, and this powerful cause! We had an enormous amount of support from our Belmont friends and also from people who just happened to be getting FroYo that night. My roommate, Palmer Lee, came out and sang to start off the night. Other Belmont students provided entrainment as the night went on (including the lovely Kate W. and Kate K. duo). It was fun to hang out with people who loved us and loved what we are doing. I felt like crying a little every time someone put a few dollars in our jar. It was such a success, and people were impacted by our Purpose Project. I can’t believe it all came together in one day, but it DID and it was BEAUTIFUL. 

After all the excitement of Tuesday night’s fundraising, I was feeling inspired last night to really hit the social media side of fundraising. So maybe I tweeted 80 celebrities last night about our project. And maybe I took it a little too far, but who cares? We have a goal, and we are doing whatever it takes to reach it. I was up late trying to think of celebrities (both local and national) that might care about our project, donate, re tweet me, or whatever. They ranged from the President to Justin Timberlake to Ellen Degeneres to the Nashville Predators to Rihanna. Once I started, I just couldn’t stop!! An hour and a half and 80 tweets later, it was time for bed. So maybe the only re tweets I got were from a Lady Gaga fan page and my roommates, but it was worth a shot!

We are making things happen, and we are leaving footprints on Twitter, on this campus, and on this world. We just have to keep moving forward!
With love and lots of sunshine,
Savannah (Belmont Community Leaders)

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Updates!

I think it’s safe to say that things are starting to slow down a little. We started off so strong (and really want to continue that way), but it’s getting a little bit harder! We had a bake sale last Friday that went really well and generally helped us get the word out a little more. Then, this past Tuesday we did a fundraiser at the Sweet Cece’s on 21st ave (Hillsboro).

I can’t even describe how incredible these two experiences were. The bake sale came took some planning, and some last minute coordinating (we just sort of stole a table so that we didn’t have to sell baked goods off a blanket on the ground…although the gypsy option was debated…), but it went off without much of a hitch! Even more incredible was the fundraiser we managed to coordinate at Sweet Cece’s. We somehow got it approved and set up all in the same day, but were so nervous no one would come since it was so short notice. Luckily, we were wrong. We bombarded social media with tweets and posts about the fundraiser and had a really great turnout. 

Through these experiences, we’ve really come to realize how blessed we are. Our friends here at Belmont and the Mocha Club have been SO supportive and incredible in helping us spread the word and accumulate donations, and complete strangers have been incredibly nice and generous towards us.

We left Sweet Cece’s Tuesday night absolutely glowing, and glowed all the way to the bank to deposit the donations we received. We’re still $1,000 short of our goal, but we’re still working hard and have faith that we can somehow make it happen. Any help is always appreciated. :) 

xoxo,

Kate W. - on behalf of the Belmont Community Leaders