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.