In the book Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Methods Fail, Paul Polak offers 12 short-and-sweet practical solutions to poverty, the first being: "Go to where the action is."
These words inspired me to do exactly that. My brother and I recruited two friends and we left our home in an affluent suburb of Philadelphia for post-earthquake Haiti. The four of us lived in a tent city in downtown Port-au-Prince and survived on $1 per day for 28 days.
Rather than seeking housing with the many earthquake relief volunteers, we decided to live with those who knew the true effects of the quake -- the Haitians who had lost the things we hold most dear: family members, friends, homes, and jobs.
Those 28 days were the hardest of my life. We were immediately overwhelmed by the destruction, death, and lack of infrastructure. Even with such great challenges, we found the Haitian people to be upbeat and optimistic. Their encouragement and support made the difference, enabling us to learn and grow with their help.
Learn more about our experience by watching the video:
While we may not have discovered a solution to poverty, we left with a deeper understanding of what it truly means to live in poverty. Moreover, it put our American experience into perspective.
Upon returning to the States, I found that my feelings greatly mirrored what Paul Polak had communicated in his book:
Working to alleviate poverty is a lively, exciting field capable of generating new hope and inspiration, not feelings of gloom and doom. Learning the truth about poverty generates disruptive innovations capable of enriching the lives of rich people even more than those of poor people.
In the two years since our initial trip to Haiti, we have shared our story with thousands of students at schools and on university campuses. Our hope is that they feel compelled, as we were, to take action against this great injustice.
In order to motivate others to get involved, we videotaped our experience and complied the footage into a 28-minute film titled "1 Dollar Poverty." This week the film had its online world premiere. We hope this video inspires thousands to get involved and to begin to understand what it means to live in poverty.
With the help of others, we can defeat dollar-a-day poverty. Please visit our website at www.povertyresolutions.org and consider getting involved in fighting poverty in your community.