Six hundred students from seven universities across the US have managed to raise $15,000 (Rs 9 lakh) for families in India. The proceeds are to be used to build a restroom for girls in a Karnataka school, and for the provision of solar lanterns for artisan families in Manipur and Mizoram.

Bangalore-based Anoj Viswanathan, co-founder of Milaap, a non-government organisation (NGO) said the activity was part of the “Live Below the Line” initiative, an international campaign that aims to address extreme poverty.

“It is a marketing and outreach effort in the US, wherein they challenge everyday Americans to live for less than a dollar a day, for a week. In the process, they bring visibility to issues such as extreme poverty, clean drinking water and sanitation,” Viswanathan told Business Line .

The campaign creates a scenario in which people must live on $1 a day (inclusive of food and drink), in a bid to highlight the difficult decisions that people in extreme poverty make daily. Many of the participants chose to raise funds for the cause of water and sanitation, and helped nearly 500 people get access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities.

This year, Milaap, which is an online fund raising platform, was the only partner from India. With 125 participants, the NGO could raise $15,000.

Of the contribution, Rs 3 lakh is to be used for a restroom for girls and a spanking new computer lab in the Lal Bahadur Shashtri High School in northern Karnataka, and 500 artisan and weaver families working in Manipur and Mizoram are to be provided solar lanterns at a cost of Rs 5 lakh. The global campaign was held between April 30 and May 5, for a week. “We focussed on campus partnership. Since our focus is on grassroots advocacy, we wanted the youth to participate,” said Viswanathan.

Teaming up with seven universities in the US, the Milaap team encouraged people to contribute to the two causes in India.

The student club at the University of Arizona, which promotes awareness and student engagement with microfinance, chose to raise funds for Milaap. Robert Marra, one of the participants who raised funds for Milaap, said the purpose of the challenge was to showcase that 1.4 billion humans live below the extreme poverty line, currently estimated by the World Bank to be the equivalent of roughly $1.50 per day in the US.


He added that for the 1.4 billion, there was no choice but to live under a dollar a day, if that at all.

Funds raised this year are to finance microloans, ensure poor workers attend vocational training classes in India, buy the raw materials needed to expand their businesses and access safe water and sanitation infrastructure.

This year's anti-poverty campaign managed to raise $450,000 for charities across the world. Last year, more than 15,000 people participated in the challenge, raising over $3 million in the process.