Without a doubt, one of the main questions that I get asked when I talk about taking part in Live Below The Line is ‘Why?’.
My Live Below The Line will last from Monday 30th April until Friday 11th May: 12 days. So I’m going to give you one reason for every day I will spend living below the line. Some of my reasons are very idealistic. I know this. But, remember, the world was never changed by a group of like-minded pessimists!
12 Reasons for 12 Days
1. This is the big one, and the main draw to why I want to take part in and support this campaign. 1.4 billion people in our world today live in extreme poverty. That means they survive on less than the equivalent of £1 per day. 1.4 billion people – that is over 20 times the population of the UK. Not only is the statistic shocking, but in a world where there is more than enough food and resources for everyone, it is shameful. I’m living below the line to raise awareness of the 1.4 billion who have no other option.
2. Extreme poverty is not a distant, unimaginable concept. It’s has a definition, therefore it exists and is a very real, daily challenge for many people. While £1 per day during the challenge is only for food and drink, people living with this have to make that £1 stretch so much further. This leads to horrifying choices being made – do we eat tonight, or do I get medicine for my sick child? I’m living below the line because such a thing as extreme poverty exists, and I believe it never should.
3. From a personal point of view, living on £1 per day is humbling and makes me aware of my daily extravagances. A quick stop at Starbucks on my way to work? Sushi take-out on a whim? My coffee addiction stands no chance on a one pound budget, and I can wave goodbye to popping round to the shop to buy a sandwich at lunchtime. I am living below the line to bring me back to earth with a bump and show just how much money we waste on daily nonsense.
4. This little girl is a reason.
While volunteering in Ghana, teaching at a rural school, my friend Tessie and I noticed, nestled on her sisters knee, this beautiful little girl. We noticed quickly that she was clearly very sick. Her temperature was high, she was trembling and sweating, and drifting in and out of a feverish sleep. Her sister, who we found out cared for her during the day while their parents worked as labourers in the fields, told us that she had been ill like this for a couple of days, but that they couldn’t afford medicine and food, and there were a lot of them so food came first. We helped as best we could and got medicine for the little one. We hate to think what would have happened if we hadn’t been able to help. The awful decisions parents have to make, between food or medicine. I live below the line because no parents should have to choose between feeding their children or getting medicine they desperately need.
5. Live Below The Line is run by the Global Poverty Project, and one of the reasons they run it is because, in order to even begin to tackle the issue of global poverty, we need to first understand it. It’s the idea of walking a mile in a man’s shoes. I live below the line in order to better understand the struggles that face people in poverty.
6. Sometimes I forget that I am the kind of person who keeps myself super informed about global development issues, and just assume that everyone around me knows what I’m talking about! Just the other day I was talking about this article about a boy who ended up going missing from his home in India through simply falling asleep on a train. In conversation, the questions were asked: “Where was his mum? Why didn’t she report him missing? How can a four year old just disappear and not have people searching for him?”. The fact that systems were not in place (and still are not) for anything like that to happen in rural India did not cross their mind. Four year olds did work on the trains, and children did go missing. And this isn’t only limited to 20 years ago – this happens right now. I live below the line in order to inform and bring about more conversations like this – to make extreme poverty a subject of conversation.
7. In connection to the above story, I live below the line so children do not have to work in fields, on trains, in factories, in order to help their families survive.
8. These two girls are another reason.
Patience and Bridget. I taught them during my time in Ghana. They were 14 and 15 years old and came to the summer school I was teaching in every day that they could. They are bright girls with a desire to build their way out of the tiny rural village they are growing up in. They are girls with a huge amount of potential, yet living in poverty. Without the work of the projects and charities that Live Below The Line supports, Patience and Bridget could end up falling into the pitfalls of being an adolescent girl in poverty. (Have a look at www.girleffect.org). I live below the line for young women like Patience and Bridget to be given a chance to live above the line.
9. There is a very inspirational woman called Josette Sheeran who is the head of the UN’s World Food Programme. She spoke at the TEDGlobal conference last year about ending hunger, and illustrated the realities of poverty and hunger. She talked about a young boy called Fabian, who gave her a cup, his food cup.
“One cup of food a day changes Fabian’s life completely. But this morning, about a billion people on Earth — or one out of every seven — woke up and didn’t even know how to fill this cup. One out of every seven people.” (Josette Sheeran)
She illustrated that our generation is the first in history with enough resources to eradicate hunger worldwide. I live below the line because we live in a generation that could change everything.
10. I live in the second most expensive city in the UK (according to Mercer’s 2011 Cost of Living Survey), which makes Live Below The Line a little bit more of a challenge. Many say it can’t be done – not here! I say it can. I live below the line to prove that even though it is possible, it is not right.
11. I like a challenge. I really do. I am never happy with just sailing along, as anyone who knows me will tell you. I need something to fight for and believe in. Something to be passionate about. My passion is for seeing the world made right and whatever small steps I can take to help make that a reality, I will. I live below the line because I want to help make the world right.
12. I live below the line for this little angel.
Little Bea is an AIDS/HIV orphan who lives now with a foster mother in a house with 8 other orphans. They make it through every day through the dedication of their foster mother who works every day at the market in order to get enough money together to feed the children she has taken in. The younger children go to a local orphanage/day care centre during the day while their foster mother is at work, with some of the older children also going to work at the market.
I live below the line for Bea, for her foster mother, for her foster brothers and sisters, and for the millions of people around the world in similar situations who deserve so much more.
Please, if you have read this far, click on this link and donate on my Live Below The Line page. These are just 12 of 1.4 billion reasons.