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What's a quid got to do with ending poverty?

 

That’s exactly the question I wanted to explore last year so I challenged myself to live on £1 a day for 8 days in the lead-up to Christmas.

Well, to be honest, the timing couldn’t have been worse… after all the Christmas season is the time of indulgence, Christmas markets, gatherings with friends, celebrations… it’s certainly not the time to live on a very tight budget!

However, I put a lot of thought into what I would eat as spending £8 on groceries for 8 days is not much – not in London, and in fact not anywhere in the world! I went through various recipe books and identified a variety of meals with cheap ingredients I would buy and cook.

I ended up going to three different supermarkets to compare prices before I bought all my groceries. I also put £1 aside for ingredients I already had in my cupboard, such as seasoning and spices - which left me with a meagre £7 for 8 days! I was well aware that simply going to the supermarket and picking up random bits and pieces for this little money wouldn’t work (well). Some more thought was required!

I cooked three meals per day – breakfast, lunch and dinner, no snacks.

My first day of Live Below the Line went well…ish. Of course, nothing bad happened, and I ate £1 worth of food, but I greatly missed my additional breakfast ingredients, such as nuts, seeds, dried cranberries and soya yogurt. I guess, missing food makes you appreciate it more when you do have it.

Still needing to get my veggies for the week, I went to my local market and was pretty stoked to only spend £1.66 on all my (fresh!) fruit and veggies. What a bargain!

As I was paying for my produce, the discussion opened up with the market lady, and we talked about my Live Below the Line challenge. She asked me straight away if I had been to any developing country where people live in extreme poverty. Without giving me a chance to respond she continued saying she’s been there, she’s seen it all. “You can’t compare it” were her last words that she repeated a few times before she shifted her attention to the next customer.

So what’s a quid got to do with ending extreme poverty then? The World Bank defines extreme poverty as what you could buy in the US in 2005 for $1.25, today roughly the equivalent of £1 here in the UK. There are 1.4 billion people in the world who live off this tiny amount every day. That little money has to cover everything, health care, education, shelter… not just food and drink.

I knew the market lady was right. I was only Living Below the Line for food and drinks, and although I went to bed hungry a couple of times, I knew I couldn’t, and never attempted to, compare my experience to the struggle 1.4 billion people face every day – the lack of choice whether to spend the little money you have on medication for a sick family member or on food for the whole family, hoping the family member gets better without any medication.

My last day of the challenge was rather interesting… only a couple of days before Christmas I had to catch a plane to Norway to spend the holidays with my family. Although I was rather organised and took my pre-cooked food with me on the plane, I found myself washing all my clothes when I arrived as my food had leaked in my bag. Luckily I could still eat the food otherwise I would have had to go without dinner on my last day of Live below the Line.

And boy I was challenged many times during the 8 days! Once I became extremely hungry and thirsty in central London and had to take the hour long journey back home to eat my food before spending another hour heading back into central London to meet friends. I also had to reject free food from friends, drink nothing but tap water and even not eat at a farewell dinner!

Live Below the Line certainly opened my eyes and gave me a glimpse of what it’s like to live without having the choice of quickly grabbing food and drink while out and about. But I never compared my situation to that of 1.4 billion people worldwide.

My attempt on doing the challenge was not to compare the situations because, as the lady from the market stall said, there is no comparison! How could I possibly compare my challenge to someone living in one of the poorest countries in the world, where 70% or more of the population lives on £1 or less a day? How could I compare myself to someone who has no choices about how to spend their little money?

My aim was to raise awareness of and get discussions going about this inequality – and raise funds for the Global Poverty Project who created the campaign in Australia in 2009 with the Oaktree Foundation.

Can you do it? Show those 1.4 billion people that you care and that you want to see an end to extreme poverty within a lifetime.

Sign-up now to Live Below the Line in the UK, Australia or the USA.

Comments

18/04/11 6:24pm - Posted By Gori Olusina Daniel - Reply to this comment
Well done Uschi

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