The sun is shining at South by Southwest as I press an inked stamp of a tyrannosaurus rex onto a woman's forearm. I hand her a flyer and explain we believe in a world where extreme poverty, like dinosaurs, can be extinct. "You know," she says, "You're the first people here to give me something that I actually care about."
This is the reason why my three colleagues and I, all of us young millennials, are traveling around the country this spring in a converted 14-person Ford van. It's why we are speaking at 100 high schools and universities about extreme poverty, why we are encouraging people to participate in our Live Below the Line challenge, and why we are capturing the whole kit-and-caboodle on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. It's because we actually care.
Shannon, Melissa, Jay and I make up the Global Poverty Project's Spring Tour -- and besides the fact that we currently live out of a van, we're not so different from our audiences. Our van is filled with gadgets and cords for our indispensable appliances. Busted suitcases spill over with clothes and accessories, and we girls spend more time than probably necessary applying make-up and planning outfits. Wrappers from Clif bars and Subway sandwiches occasionally litter the floor and no day is complete without at least two trips to a coffee vendor, our collective vice of choice.
In these ways and others, we are typical of our generation. We have grown up and been educated in the Western world, though much of our worldview has formed by times spent out of it, whether in Africa, Latin America, or Asia. Like the rest of our generation, we care. We are not immune to the many ambient messages that urge us to care about what we put onto or into our bodies, about the size of our clothes and the color of our hair, about the people and the bucks that we bring into our beds and our wallets. Us four, we worry about that.
But we are also concerned with something bigger -- with a world where 1.4 billion people live on $1.50 or less a day. We care about reaching a place where no one has to live in that state, a place where diseases like polio don't unnecessarily cripple children, a place where equality and justice overpower forces of corruption and greed.
We believe we are on the brink of reaching that place. Six weeks into a cross-country tour of America, I stand on a street corner in Texas and talk to people about extreme poverty. I talk to women and men, festival-goers and locals, and they want to listen. Throughout the country, I have been consistently been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for our cause, and for the actions that individuals and groups are already taking to make a difference.
Actions such as participating in our Live Below the Line challenge, which dares Americans to spend five days eating and drinking on a $1.50 or less a day. This challenge provides a glimpse into some of the difficulties faced by those living in extreme poverty and has raised over five million dollars for anti-poverty initiatives worldwide. I've done the challenge once before and am looking forward to joining thousands of others in living below the line this year from April 29 to May 3.
Others have committed to signing our End of Polio petition -- which asks politicians to continue support for the global polio eradication initiative -- or to buying fair trade products and volunteering locally and internationally.
I have learned in the past few weeks of 24/7 togetherness that my colleagues and I come from different lives and inhabit different bodies, but we're not that different. Collectively, we're not so different from the people who attend our presentations or those who we talk with on the streets. While there might be 1.4 billion ways in which our lives differ from those who live in extreme poverty, there is one fundamental commonality: we all care about the people we love and desire for them to be happy and prosperous and safe.
It is this basic human desire to care that makes me confident that our generation will be the one to end extreme poverty. I believe that some day people won't have to live on $1.50 a day. I know that extinction -- the end of extreme poverty -- won't be caused by a comet or an ice age or a change in genetics, but by a generation of people marked not by stamps and possessions but with the compassion and the skill sets to change the world.