Author Archives: dmartinez

Living Below the Poverty Line to Help Eradicate Global Poverty

By WorldLink Intern Renata Del Riego, High Tech High Chula Vista

Approximately 1.2 billion people worldwide currently live in extreme poverty. That is nearly 3.75 times the population of the United States living everyday in these severe and rampant conditions. There are a vast variety of global organizations and initiatives that are presently working against food insecurity, acute famine, and extreme poverty. One of these initiatives is Live Below the Line, an annual anti-poverty campaign that raises awareness through challenging its participants to live below the poverty line for five days. Additionally, each participant who takes the challenge has the option to choose a global organization that they would like to raise funds for. I chose to fundraise for the Global Poverty Project, which aims to end extreme poverty by 2030.

When I heard about this amazing campaign I was excited about being able to fundraise for a cause as big and important as this one, but later on when I found out about the five-day challenge, I knew I definitely wanted to get more involved. The instructions for the challenge were fairly simple:

1. You have a total of $7.50 to buy the ingredients for all of your meals for 5 days.
2. You cannot grab a snack from the pantry unless you count the cost of the item within your budget.
3. For items such as salt and pepper simply work out the cost of each item per ounce, and budget your shopping proportionally.
4. You can use food from your garden as long as you account for the price of production.
5. You cannot accept donated food from others.
6. You can count tap water as being free.

I did my research, thought of recipes, and told my parents about my endeavor. Of course, they were terrified because they thought I was going to faint out of hunger. I tried to explain to them that I was aware of the possibilities of hunger pangs, lightheadedness, dull thinking, moodiness, difficulty to focus at school, boredom of the food, etc. I knew it was going to be a hard process, but I had the lucid certainty that I wanted to undertake this challenge to contribute to the cause.

The night before beginning the challenge, I went grocery shopping with the limited amount of money I was allowed to spend. Instinctively, I walked towards the fruit and vegetables section only to realize that there was no way I could afford fresh foods. Disappointed, I directed my shopping cart to the “pantry” aisle, and I knew I had found the right place. I ended up buying one bag of white rice, one bag of black beans, half a gallon of milk, a couple of potatoes, oatmeal, and a bag of corn tortillas. As an indulgence, I also bought three bananas and an orange.


Day One: The first day wasn’t very hard. For breakfast I ate half a cup of cereal ($0.19) with a cup of milk ($0.17). I didn’t take lunch to school, which was the hardest part of the whole challenge, since I’m used to eating 4-5 times a day. Once I got home, I had a serving of white rice ($0.18) and two servings of black beans ($0.30). Before going to bed, I had one banana ($0.12), a cup of milk ($0.17), and two boiled potatoes ($0.24). My food for Day One came out to $1.37.

Day Three: My meals began to get repetitive since the recipes didn’t vary much. However, it wasn’t until Day Three that I started to feel the effects of hunger. The third day of the challenge happened to be the day I was taking a very important test, and I realized something was wrong because I couldn’t answer the questions with ease. I had to read each question 3-4 times before understanding what it was asking, but after I did, I didn’t really know how to solve it. Additionally, I had really intense headaches throughout the day and felt as if I was about to faint. Although these effects made it hard for me to perform well in school, there was a sense of satisfaction in that pain and frustration. I knew that what I was doing was part of a bigger purpose, and that I still wasn’t feeling half the hunger others face in the world.

Later this day, I was sitting with my friends at lunch. Not only did they have what appeared to be an obscene amount of food, but they were also playing with their food. They threw apples at one other and threw away their bags of chips that were only halfway done. I was about to say something when a friend of mine intervened. She said, “Let’s not play with our food like that. There are kids in Africa who are starving!” While my friend’s comment was true, what she didn’t realize was that her words also described kids in New York, Los Angeles, and even San Diego. We appear to be indifferent to the fact that 1 in every 6 Americans faces hunger, even kids at our local schools, including myself. It dawned on me that we often don’t realize that our actions can impact and affect people who are very close to us, even if they don’t appear to be going through hardships.

Day Four: Another very powerful realization came to me during a bake sale after school. These school fundraisers tend to be relatively inexpensive. However, looking at it through the poverty lens, it becomes completely disproportional. A friend asked me if I wanted to buy a cookie for $0.50, and while normally I would consider that amount to be extremely cheap, it constituted one third of my daily budget. I started to look at the way in which we spend our money, and how subjective the words “cheap” and “expensive” are.

Renata_2My five days of “living below the line” taught me how hard it is to not have enough to eat
and to not have the option of choosing a healthy and balanced meal. It taught me that even if something appears to be inexpensive, it could be a whole family’s weekly income. Thus, we must be responsible about the way in which we use our resources. While I feel proud of myself for having been a part of this noble challenge, I understand that those who actually live below the poverty line have no other choice. Unlike me, they do not have the option to stop the challenge after five days, which is why I think that empathizing and putting myself in other people’s shoes is the least I can do to hopefully raise awareness about extreme poverty and inequality. It is our responsibility as global citizens to ensure that people who are living in acute famine thrive, and not just survive. Gandhi said that “Poverty is the worst form of violence,” and after experiencing these tremendously transformative and powerful five days, I definitely agree.

To access Renata’s Live Below the Line fundraiser profile, visit:

WorldLink Student Reflects on Teen Gender Equity Conference

By WorldLink journalist Terra Giddens, University City High School

The Teen Gender Equity Conference at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ) was an unforgettable and perspective-altering experience. Open only to high school students, the conference focused on three important issues: human trafficking, pay equity and sexual assault. It was a collaborative event hosted by the IPJ’s WorldLink program, Girls Give Back of Jewish Family Service of San Diego, Only With Consent and Run Women Run!


More than 60 high school students addressed three pressing issues: pay equity, human trafficking, and sexual assault issues.

When I first arrived at the conference, I didn’t expect such an intense three hours. Although the facts that were shared were heartbreaking, they were realistic and I was truly motivated to make a difference. Guest speakers did not hesitate to provide all of the necessary information in order for us to make positive changes. Their goal was to create a drive within the audience to make an impact, and overall they succeeded.

For the first hour, we had the option to attend an Educational Breakout Session focused on human trafficking or pay equity. I selected the session on human trafficking led by Crystal Anthony, a clinical social worker who specializes in human trafficking. She immediately dove into the wounds and root causes of child labor and sexual exploitation, and shared with us a video called “America’s Daughters” that exposes the pain of trafficking victims. The cruelty of trafficking was illustrated in the video when a victim was described as a “walking corpse stained with the fingerprints of strangers.”

Anthony continued to convey the shocking reality of the situation through interactive activities. For instance, she had us consider real-life scenarios of girls as young as ten years old threatened into prostitution and immigrant children forced into intense labor. It was important to be aware of the fact that trafficking can take place across the border and in crime-ridden neighborhoods, but also in “nice” gated communities throughout San Diego.


Students presented their stance on Assembly Bill 1051 on human trafficking to Katelyn Hailey, from the office of Senator Marty Block.

As we entered the second hour, students proceeded to an Advocacy Breakout Session in either human trafficking or pay equity. I attended the human trafficking advocacy session hosted by Katelyn Hailey, field representative for the office of Senator Marty Block. Hailey shared her views on how an individual can effectively make a difference and took us step-by-step through the process of talking to an elected official.

As a group, we put our purpose into action and worked closely with Hailey in creating a pitch in favor of Assembly Bill 1051, which “proposes to add human trafficking to the list of crimes used to enhance penalties for persons affiliated with a criminal street gang. The bill also creates a ‘safe school zone’ by increasing sentences for convictions related to human trafficking that occur within 1,000 feet of a school.” We derived important points about the assembly bill, and we used our knowledge on how to talk to elected officials to convey our position on the bill. The interactive and instructive atmosphere created during the Advocacy Breakout Sessions encompassed the most positive aspects of the conference. I felt more prepared to face and conquer the issues I am most passionate about.


Representatives from USD’s Women’s Center shared great information and resources at the Teen Gender Equity Conference.

Finally, in the third hour, the entire conference delegation came together for one last interactive session focused on the realities of sexual assault, in particular on college campuses. The speakers, Jasmine Enriquez and Mike Friedman from Only With Consent, shared extremely deep and personal information about how serious these issues are in society. They spoke about real-life situations, therefore sparking awareness within the audience.

Enriquez and Friedman explained the importance of making sure there is consent between both partners before engaging in intimate activities, which helped student delegates possess a new sense of confidence and awareness. The effectiveness of this interactive session was mind-blowing in an incredibly positive way. If everyone in society had the opportunity to participate in similar sessions, we would live in a safer and more trusting world.

The Teen Gender Equity Conference was eye opening and informative, and it made a lasting impact on my life because I was surrounded by teenagers who were serious about the fight for a better future. Debbie Martinez, WorldLink program officer, said that youth participants would have the chance to “develop real plans of action.” These words rung true. I left the conference more passionate about making a difference and determined to create my own plan of action.

“Safe Bags” for Human Trafficking Survivors: Terra Giddens has since initiated a program through which people can donate items for “safe bags,” which are bags that contain items for survivors of human trafficking, such as clothes, blankets, and books. Through coordination with the program STARS (Surviving Together, Achieving and Reaching for Success) at San Diego Youth Services, the “safe bags” will be distributed to human trafficking survivors. For more information or to make a donation, email Terra at