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We are very excited to launch Live Below The Line 2012 today! Here is an inspiring story from our participant last year David Miah.
A confession. When I signed up to take part in Live Below The Line last year I didn’t think it was going to be that difficult. I’ve done the student thing. I lived off an intake of instant noodles and porridge for three years. How difficult could living on £1 a day actually be?
I learned rapidly that it is pretty darn difficult and for all of the whining that I’ve done in my life about having to budget or scrape money together, I’ve never come close to experiencing anything close to poverty, nor have I experienced the lack of choice, monotony, and plain hard work that is all part of having to live on such a meagre sum of money.
Let’s go back to May 2011 and the beginning of the challenge. Before I could even think about rustling up a thirty pence meal I had to figure out exactly what ingredients I could buy and where I could purchase them from. It sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? After all, unless we are extremely privileged, we all have to go shopping for our own food. This part of the challenge was in fact every bit as draining as the meals I consumed throughout the week were insubstantial. The hours I spent comparing the prices of lentils felt like the most ridiculous use of my time, and then once I had my shopping list prepared I had to trawl from shop to shop around Hackney in order to purchase my week’s ingredients at the lowest price. It was nothing short of exhausting, and my reward for all of this effort? A truly terrible and tasteless pot of carrot soup that had to last me for five lunches! It felt so unfair that all of my effort was met with so little reward, and joining the none too subtle dots, this is because a life lived in poverty is met with little reward and is unfair.
And this sense of unfairness came not only from having to eat my horrible carrot soup, but also from a sense that all of my choices were stripped of me. The food I bought was dictated by my financial means, where I bought it was dictated by my financial means, and even the choices I had over my social life were taken away. When friends asked me to join them in the pub, I couldn’t, and when colleagues asked me to join them for a work lunch I couldn’t do that either. In the context of my life as a single young man these choices really are ‘Pub or no pub?’, but in the context of real lived extreme poverty these choices are far more serious. Healthcare or no healthcare? Do I feed my child a decent meal, or send my child to school?
I’ve managed to make my Live Below The Line experience sound pretty meagre, and it certainly wasn’t easy, but I am 100% glad that I took part. Friends, family and colleagues of mine were very generous with donations and I was able to raise a decent amount of money for charity, but above and beyond this it was a campaign that truly engaged my sponsors. Everybody asked questions about Live Below The Line: why I was taking part in the challenge, and even how they could take part themselves. For those people that sponsored me, food consumption is completely taken for granted. They can eat whatever they like, whenever they like, in whichever quantity they desire. And it is taking food consumption out of the sphere of the taken for granted that makes Live Below The Line such a powerful campaign, and why it engaged so many of my own friends and colleagues.
I’m sure there are some of you who feel that living on £1 a day for five days can’t be that difficult just as I did, and I really want to encourage you to take part so you can experience for yourselves just how difficult it can be. And you might not feel that you need to change your eating habits to understand the trying nature of living in poverty, but true empathy does come from putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes, and if you can engage people in conversations about extreme poverty and raise money for charity along the way, I think that’s a pretty cool thing.
We invite you to join us in participating in Live Below The Line 2012 by signing up here to undertake this incredible challenge for The Global Poverty Project.
This article was originally written by Lynsey Logan for Development in Action here.
As more than ten million people in East Africa face desperate food and water shortages following the worst drought in sixty years, the international community has pledged to respond. In this article, Development in Action writer Lynsey Logan assesses the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, and discusses her involvement with ‘Live Below The Line’ – an awareness campaign committed to making a difference in the fight against poverty.
Over the past couple of weeks the world has stared in shock as we see famine and drought take a hold on the Horn of Africa once more. Sadly this is not the first time we have seen such images dominating our headlines – yet many of us see the images and find ourselves asking why we are still seeing this happen again and again after all these years.
We are facing yet another massive humanitarian tragedy. People are suffering on an unimaginable scale, and mothers are making choices about which of their children die in order for the others to survive. Extended drought is causing a severe food crisis in the Horn of Africa, which includes Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia. Weather conditions over the Pacific means the rains have failed for two seasons and are unlikely to return until September. Food shortages are affecting up to 12 million people. The UN has declared famine in areas of Somalia and large areas of the region are now classified as in crisis or emergency, with malnutrition affecting up to 35-40% of children under five. The humanitarian problem is made worse by ongoing conflicts, which means that until July militant groups had only allowed aid organisations limited access to large parts of southern Somalia and eastern Ethiopia.
Statistics and numbers can often feel very distant, and do not often affect people. The more striking facts are coming out of the individual stories being told in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Since the beginning of 2011, around 15,000 Somalis each month have fled into refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia looking for food and water. The refugee camp at Dadaab, in Kenya, has been overwhelmed. The stories that are told are moving and horrifying. One mother told how she left her sick child on the road because he was too weak to make the journey to Kenya. Burdened by other small children, she left him in the desert. A pastoralist told of how he watched his precious cattle drop dead one by one as the land dried up and food became scarce. Another man told of how his wife – who was nine-months pregnant – went into labour while they were travelling to the camp. They had no medical supplies and both his wife and the baby died shortly afterwards.
Hunger is a relative concept. How many times have we come to the end of the day and said casually ‘I’m so hungry!’ as we start to cook dinner or look into a refrigerator filled with food and drink? Can we ever know what it must be like to truly be hungry? That’s the very question that The Global Poverty Project sought to answer through the ‘Live Below The Line’ challenge, which I took part in during May this year.
The challenge? To feed yourself on £1 per day for 5 days. £1 because that is the UK equivalent of the extreme poverty line – a line that no one want to fall below.
The reason? To give a unique glimpse into the lives of 1.4 billion people who have no choice but to live like that every day – and have to make £1 cover a lot more than food. 1.4 BILLION – that’s over 20 times the population of the UK – living every day in the most abject poverty. That £1 has to cover far more than food and drink – we’re talking everything – health, housing, transport, food, education… It’s impossible to imagine, but it’s the incomprehensible reality for an incredible number of people.
In taking part in ‘Live Below The Line’, I not only had a way of talking with friends about the reality of poverty, I also found myself experiencing in a unique way the very real and daily struggle and the choices you have to make when living with extreme poverty. I found myself faced with a lack of choice in what I would eat, and missing certain important nutritional elements of my diet. I didn’t have much sugar and found myself feeling tired and run down by day three. I had only 6 eggs for the week which represented all the protein in my diet – meat was too expensive and I opted for the cheapest vegetables to bulk up my plate. I relied mainly on carbohydrates – low-cost rice and pasta – pepped up with a chicken flavour stock cube to take away how very bland everything tasted. The over-arching emotions and feelings were of tiredness from lack of essential nutrition, frustration from the lack of choice, and, most significantly, a re-ignited passion for making sure that people do not have to live like this every day. Live Below The Line gave me the tiniest glimpse of a life that, had I been born in a different latitude and longitude, could have been mine.
2 months on from taking that challenge, I see the news coming out of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, I find my mind going back to that week of ‘living below the line’. I remember those feelings of tiredness, frustration, never feeling quite full. I can’t even begin to imagine how many times I would need to multiply that feeling to gain a sense of what it is like to not have eaten in weeks. The living hell that the people of the Horn of Africa are experiencing is not just about not having food. To truly gain a sense of what they are going through I would then have to add the feelings that come with no access to water, travelling for days to reach help, the continuing threat of violence from militants who continue to wage war in your country, the all-encompassing grief at losing children and family members, losing livelihoods, losing hope.
As humanitarian organisations work hard to get help to those who need it, what can we do? The need is desperate and reaching critical levels. The Disasters Emergency Committee in the UK launched an appeal, and all major aid agencies have places within their websites where you can donate.
Think of the last time you were hungry. Now multiply it by days, weeks, months. As Ghandi said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
This May, the decision of almost ten thousand people worldwide to Live Below the Line helped capture the public’s imagination, and focus it on the issue of extreme poverty.
The passionate advocacy and shoestring budgeting of thousands of Australians, Americans and Brits helped to engage hundreds of thousands of people around the world with the issue of extreme poverty; raising over a million dollars worldwide to help fund crucial anti-poverty initiatives, and highlighting the impossible choices faced by 1.4 billion people every day.
The stories and experiences of Live Below the Line participants have lit fires in the hearts of friends, family and colleagues in thousands of communities. Now, as we all settle back into the rhythm of everyday life, we need to make sure we keep those fires burning.
That’s why for the next month we’re encouraging our supporters to continue the conversation started by Live Below the Line, by booking a presentation of 1.4 Billion Reasons for your community.
The 1.4 Billion Reasons presentation explains the incredible progress that has been made in the fight against extreme poverty; and the way that our simple, everyday actions can ensure a better future for the 1.4 billion people who currently live in extreme poverty. Developed in consultation with experts from across the globe, it breaks down the facts of extreme poverty, and explains why and how we can see an end to it within a generation.
During Live Below the Line we put extreme poverty at the centre of dinner tables around the country, and laid the foundations for something incredible.
If you’d like to build on these foundations by getting your community involved in the global movement to create change, we encourage you to book a presentation of 1.4 Billion Reasons for your community, to show them how their simple actions can create change.
The Global Poverty Project welcomed the recent post, "Is The Global Poverty Project's 'Live Below the Line' Campaign An Effective Way To Help The Poor?"
GPP staff, volunteers and supporters ask this question every day.
This is important -- debating the merits of what we do and why we do it is integral to who we are. This is because GPP's purpose is more than just raising awareness about extreme poverty; it is about inspiring debate and raising the pressure to do something about it. We don't just want people to know the problems, we want them to act in realistic, informed and highly focused ways to force solutions.
More than anything, we don't want business as usual.
This week, people have been taking real action around the globe to fight extreme poverty with the Live Below the Line Campaign. They've used social media and reached out personally to friends, family members and their communities. Over 10,000 people have taken part in the campaign -- raising over $1.2 million globally to help lift people out of poverty.
Our partner in this campaign is CARE. A leading humanitarian organization, CARE works in 87 countries, implementing long-term programs to fight poverty, responding to humanitarian emergencies, and advocating for policy change to improve the lives of the poorest people. Working together, GPP has used our unique strengths to help bring attention to global poverty, inspiring everyday people to live below the line and fundraise for CARE -- who are the experts at doing this work on-the-ground and doing it successfully.
But we don't stop at fundraising. We are interested in systemic change. Global poverty is the product of reversible policy failures overseen by politicians, past and present. The poorest of the poor don't vote in American or European elections. They don't make donations to political parties or hire lobbyists in D.C., London or Canberra. In an environment of budget-slashing austerity measures, funding allocated to development assistance is ripe, low-hanging fruit.
The Global Poverty Project's mission is to stand up for the world's poorest people. We fight for the full funding of Millennium Development Goals and advocate meaningful change to government and corporate policies that block progress and entrench injustice. We get there by inspiring and educating people, expanding the number of informed voices calling for change. This can include celebrities like Hugh Jackman and Charlize Theron, but more often it is our friends, family, classmates, neighbors and colleagues.
Live Below the Line raises real money to help the world's poorest people but it is also a symbolic demonstration aimed at highlighting -- not replicating -- the plight of the world's poor. Mocking participants for the mildness of their hardship may be good fun, but it misses that point. History shows that all protest movements rely on symbols -- boycotts, strikes, sit-ins, flags, songs. Symbolic action on whatever scale -- from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to wearing a simple wristband -- is designed to disrupt our everyday complacency and force people to think.
GPP has made real, tangible progress in this fight. We played a pivotal role in the government's decision to double aid and development spending in Australia -- an additional $4.3 billion for the world's poorest. We worked alongside other organizations to persuade Cadbury to adopt fair trade practices, improving the livelihood of 40,000 farmers in Ghana. Our U.S. co-founder led a movement to end America's involvement in the war in Northern Uganda through the passing of the LRA disarmament act through U.S. Congress.
Funds raised for GPP are helping fight the root causes of poverty. This fall, we'll also focus on creating systemic change by educating and engaging over 15,000 Americans in advocacy campaigns that target issues like preventable diseases like Polio, transparency and corruption, and making trade fair.
The question being asked is “Is living on US$1.50 a day (for food) helping those living in extreme poverty?”
It’s a valid question. So here’s another question: how do we help people living in extreme poverty?
If the answer includes raising awareness about extreme poverty, getting people to care about people living in extreme poverty and raising funds for projects that address the causes of poverty, then yes, living on US$1.50 does make a difference.
Live Below the Line evolved as a personal quest for empathy. In 2009 I had returned from 2 years of work in Bangladesh to join the Global Poverty Project and take its eye-opening presentation 1.4 Billion Reasons across Australia and New Zealand. I heard the presentation almost daily for three months and every time I did, I was left grappling with the statement that “1.4 billion people live on less than US$1.25/day.” I simply couldn’t get my head around this statistic. Sure, 1.4 billion people is a big number – similar to the population of India or China – but it was the US$1.25 that bamboozled me. I was always left with that tiny dollar figure stuck in my head.
Even after a year building the capacity of the IT department of the Bangladesh Rural Development Board, and another year living and working in the slums of Dhaka with a free English-medium school I thought I quite a good grasp on the issues and challenges of extreme poverty. But every time I heard that simple statement – “1.4 billion people living on less than US$1.25” – I realised that I didn’t really understand or empathise with the challenge of living on less than US$1.25/day (and to be honest, I don’t think I ever truly will).
At the time I assumed that the extreme poverty line of US$1.25 figure was grossly inaccurate. I really dug deep into how the world bank measured the US$1.25 figure. My response was due to it being easier to believe the stats were wrong than accept the reality that 1.4 billion people were living on less than what $1.25 could buy me in the USA.
I shared these thoughts with my housemate Nick Allardice, a friend who had been involved in the Aid and Development industry for a while. He challenged me to figure out how to make this statistic come to life by, well, living it. So, in September 2009, I took on his challenge and went down to the grocery store to buy a month’s worth of groceries with the Australian equivalent of the extreme poverty line.
I decided to write a few notes and thoughts about my month-long journey in a blog, which I shared with a few colleagues, some close friends and my family.
The response was overwhelming.
Friends who thought extreme poverty was a leftist fallacy designed to bring back communism were engaging with my journey. Industry peers who had been working in Aid and Development for years were writing to me saying what I was trying to do was not possible.
It was immediately clear that the concept of ‘living’ in extreme poverty had opened many a closed, conservative mind and provided progressive thinkers with a tangible way to engage with a confronting statistic. Through the course of that month, I found myself, and the people around me, really begin to empathise with the challenges of extreme poverty.
Looking back I can see that this is where the Live Below the Line campaign really started – with a small community of people deeply engaging with the action I was taking. The Live Below the Line challenge happening today was not some scheme Nick and I dreamed up, or something the Global Poverty Project brainstormed in a fundraising meeting.
Live Below the Line is an organic campaign that grew to include thousands of people around the world who have taken the conversation about extreme poverty into their kitchens and their dining rooms. And who have seen their actions enable them and their communities to empathise with the experiences of the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty.
Cause-based organisations try to engage and empower their communities in a variety of ways, whether it be to “doodle something good in the world” or through facilitating their community to visit developing countries. The challenge when trying to make a difference is to get people to empathise with your cause. Only through empathy are people are inspired to sustainably take action and engage others. Invisible Children has achieve this the great videos and stories they bring to your computer, and this is what the Global Poverty Project is trying to do through the Live Below the Line challenge.
Living on US$1.50/day is not about pretending to be poor, because we couldn’t begin to replicate challenges around issues like education, sanitation, housing or health care. It’s simply meant to give people a glimpse into the challenges and choices that one sixth of the world’s population come across everyday. It’s an opportunity to change the way hundreds of thousands of people think about extreme poverty, and to raise money that will go directly to combat its causes.
If you truly doubt the potential the campaign has to shift the perspectives of thousands in the developed world then I encourage you to undertake the challenge for 5 days.
Please note that the current challenge figure of US$1.50 has been adjusted for inflation from the World Bank’s 2005 figure of US$1.25. The equivalent Australian figure is $2 a day, or £1 in the United Kingdom.