Could you live on £1 a day?
A major fundraising event took place across the UK, Australia and the USA last year involving thousands of people and receiving huge media attention. It was the poverty awareness campaign Live Below the Line, coordinated by education and campaigning organisation Global Poverty Project. This year, Live Below the Line is back just next month, May 2012.
The mission of Live Below the Line is to increase the number of people taking action against extreme poverty through a new awareness from their Western part. The challenge is to spend five days ‘below the line’, namely with an allowance of only £1 a day (US$1.25) to spend on food and drink.
Currently, a shocking 1.4 billion people around the globe live in extremely disastrous conditions of poverty. According to the World Bank, £1 equals the daily allowance of those living in the world’s poorest countries and most underdeveloped communities, who must fight this extreme struggle everyday of their lives.
Live Below the Line started in Australia, with more than 2,000 participants who raised over $520,000 in 2010. This money is already having an unprecedented impact in the developing world, with Oaktree Foundation’s investment of $400,000 into its international development work in Papua New Guinea and Cambodia.
The idea of Live Below the Line took shape in 2009, when Rich Fleming (from the Global Poverty Project) and Nick Allardice (from the Oaktree Foundation) were living together in a share house in Melbourne. They had met in the slums of Bangladesh and ever since shared their preoccupation with poverty and the wish of its alleviation. One day, Allardice challenged Fleming to live according to the minimum amount accessible to the people in extremely poor conditions. So the whole experience began and it was one that dramatically shifted Rich’s perspective on life: “I struggled with a lack of variety and flavour in my diet. My day was disrupted by things as simple as a flat bike tyre”, he tells. So together, Allardice and Fleming saw the opportunity to take the concept to a much higher scale and involve thousands of others.
“We run Live Below the Line because we think that to really fight poverty, we’ve got to try to understand it – and what better way than by spending just a few days below the poverty line.”
Last year a few thousands people in the UK welcomed this challenge, and many more made donations in support of their friends and family, raising £180,000 for charity partners such as Think Global, Christian Aid and UNICEF.
People who took part in this amazing event have now a different mindset about it. Ever since day one, they’ve had a new approach to it and started new conversations about the extreme difficulties of living in poverty.
Annalisa Renna, administrator at Said Foundation, raised £80 through her personal page and looks forward to this year’s challenge. “It is one of the few moments when I can concentrate on myself – my needs and addictions – and work out how spoilt I am”, she says. “It is useful to realise how many things I take for granted in my life just because I happen to be born in the developed world. It makes me appreciate them.”
Amarachi Uzowuru, Public Education officer at Comic Relief, also remembers her Live Below the Line challenge from last year as a life-changing experience. “One that everyone should have as it really does change your perception of poverty and what living on less than a dollar a day means as so many people in the world do”, Amarachi said.
As for me, my own personal target was initially of £15 but thanks to friends, family, tutors and colleagues I was eventually able to raise £90. To me each day brought on an unprecedented struggle with the sole comfort of getting closer to the fifth day – therefore to the end of living below the line. This made me think even further, and realise how fortunate I was to have a choice, unlike so many others who, every day, wake up and strive until night and for whom everything inescapably starts again the very next morning – simply because there is no Day Five to reach.
Many celebrities also got involved in the campaign. Among others, there were Hugh Jackman, Bonnie Wright, and Alison Cork. Politicians too – Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson also devoted to the five-day challenge.
Signing up is easy and your personal page will be up and running in just a few clicks. You can also personalise it by giving a detailed account of your experience and through your own pictures, videos and links. This year you can also create or join a team and share your experience with your best friends.
If you are interested in this extraordinary event and wish to join thousands of others in the challenge (7th-11th May 2012), visit the Live Below the Line website and get your own page up.
See my personal page here or have a look at my team page, Love Above the Line, for ideas and support, of course.
2012 LIVE BELOW THE LINE – COULD YOU? – Watch the YouTube video here