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I'm hungry. In fact - I'm ravenous.


Dennis Marcus Lived Below the Line in September 2010. He shares his experience with us here.

I’m hungry. In fact – I’m ravenous. Not even for quantity of food, but just for something that has taste. Anything has set me off in the last four days – the smell of a microwaved meal, walking past any cafe or just even talking about food leaves me in a fantastical weak-kneed state.

Why am I so hungry? Because for eight days, I’m living below the line – in extreme poverty.

1.4 billion people around the world live on less than what you can buy in the US for a $1.25 a day (2005 ppp). It’s enough for some rice, some vegetables, cooking fuel and some clean water to make two basic meals. Then there’s 10 cents left over for everything else in life – housing, transportation, education, clothes, healthcare – anything else they might need to survive.

So what’s happening?
We've made great progress - reducing the proportion of the world's population living in extreme poverty from 52% to 25% since 1981 - in my lifetime.

In 2000, 190 world leaders came together to the UN to create the Millennium Development Goals - eight goals that will halve extreme poverty by 2015. From 20-22 September 2010, the UN met to discuss the progress of the MDGs and how we can ensure we achieve them. It’s was vital meeting to the future of those 1.4 billion people.

So for eight days I was only allowed to spend 93p a day on food, with which I’ve been able to buy some muesli, milk, fruit and pasta – or put differently: a marathon of boredom for my taste buds.

Why am I living in extreme poverty?
I’ve been very lucky in my life – the example of my family has both been quite daunting but most of all inspirational. My South African family gave up so much, in some cases even their lives, for what was the challenge of their generation – ending apartheid.

When I was ten, at my granddad Oupa Natie’s 80th birthday in South Africa, I ended up sitting next to an old man on the sofa in our lounge. I had no idea really who he was – but no person has had greater impact on my life. Nelson Mandela was one of Oupa Natie’s oldest friends. I was in awe of him that day and I immediately went to find out everything I could about him and the giants that he stood shoulder to shoulder with (it’s him I blame my innate geekiness on!).

Reading about how these men dreamt and hoped for a better world inspired a life-long desire to make a difference. It’s a desire that has informed my life so far – and it’s why I’m living below the line.

Raising funds
So far the generosity of people at work has stunned me – I’ve even revised my target up to £750. My boss has also generously agreed to match anything I raise up to £1000.

It’s been an amazing, tough week. I’ve come face to face with only a fraction of the challenge of extreme poverty – having to make careful decisions about what to buy, when to eat, when to go hungry. That hasn’t even included the other decisions. For example – what would you do if you were in charge of the spending and a member of your family became ill? Would you pay for them to go to the doctor or would you pay to feed your family? If you pay for the doctor, then your family goes hungry. If you feed your family, you can only hope that your brother, your sister, you mother or father – whoever it is – gets better.

I’m not sure I could make that decision.?But this week has shown me that a partnership of people can take action – governments and leaders, charities and local communities, people living in extreme poverty themselves and people just like us. Working together we have and can achieve great things as we face the challenge of our generation.

Dennis eventually raised £2400 from his 8 days Living Below the Line. You can sign up with thousands of others taking the challenge at:

UK -
AU - 

US -


30/03/11 11:27am - Posted By Tam - Reply to this comment
My kids don't understand the old race issues. I tried to explain it to them when they watched "Hairspray", and you could tell from their faces it was the stupidest thing they'd ever heard of. Even I wonder how people ever put up with that crap.

How wonderful is it to think that our grandkids might not understand the extreme poverty we "once" saw? They'll probably wonder what took us so long to fix it.

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