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May 16, 2011 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Live Below The Line: Life as they know it

As university students, we know how it feels to have to forego luxuries. Living on noodles and toast are the epitome of the ‘student lifestyle’. We often complain that we have too much month left at the end of our money. But imagine having just $2.25 a day for food.

Live Below The Line, an initiative of The Global Poverty Project, aims to show people what it really means to have to live on the bare necessities—something which 1.4 billion people around the world have to experience every day.

The Global Poverty Project (GPP) is an organisation that “seeks to invigorate the global movement to take effective concerted action on poverty”. The organisation aims to educate people through the 90-minute presentation 1.4 Billion Reasons, which looks at extreme poverty and how we can help to alleviate these circumstances. One of GPP’s most popular initiatives is Live Below The Line, which challenges people in developed countries to live on $2.25 of food per day, which is the threshold for extreme poverty, for five days. Live Below the Line is a chance for people to experience how 1.4 billion people around the world have to live for most, if not all, of their lives. The initiative also allows for participants to fundraise, with the proceeds going towards helping those living in extreme poverty. This year, during the week of August 22-26, Live Below the Line will take place in New Zealand for the first time ever.

Having only $2.25 a day for food sounds extremely daunting, especially when it can cost 80 cents for an apple at the supermarket. But, with a positive attitude and some prior research, it is possible. d’Arcy Lunn, a presenter for GPP in Australia, is taking on the challenge for a month this year. “I’ve spent a lot of time in developing countries and appreciated the experience so much! Last year I could only do it for five days, but my compromise for only doing it for five days was to live on $1 AUD a day—as opposed to $2.25 a day.”

d’Arcy believes that the longer you do Live Below the Line, the more you understand what those in developing countries have to go through. “It’s a fantastic tool that [you] can use in advocating and trying to get a perspective on people who live in extreme poverty.”

Like d’Arcy, the Australian Operations Manager Albert Benjamin is also participating in Live Below the Line for a month. He decided that doing it for a month would allow for a greater understanding of the challenges faced by 1.4 billion people around the world.

Live Below the Line also has a personal significance on Albert: “I’m half German, half Filipino. German side aside, the Philippines for me is a really great place to visit, but it’s also a place with a lot of poverty. It’s never been something that I’ve been able to connect with even though I’ve visited the Philippines. So for me this is a really good chance to try to connect with the situation, for me it’s much closer to home.”

While Live Below the Line is a challenge, both men recommend careful planning before actually participating. Albert believes that mental and physical preparation is the key to a smooth run. “I had to make sure I felt really comfortable taking the challenge, that I wasn’t coerced into it … [Last year] I didn’t prepare myself physically, but I probably should have stopped eating as much 3 or 4 days prior.”

d’Arcy made sure he did a big shop beforehand: “ I managed to shop very well at the markets, I bought up big and cooked up a massive pot … I try to have the same meals as much as possible though, because that is the way that people eat in developing countries.”

An issue that comes up often in regards to Live Below the Line is the effect it can have on one’s health. “If anything, it puts me on a better diet than my usual one because I eat a lot of leftover bakery products … it has provided me with a bit of a cleanse,” says d’Arcy. “I will have to do less riding and running though because I will lose weight.”

Albert also lost some weight, but both men assert that Live Below the Line is an experience and a challenge, not a diet! “I lost 8kg in that month, which is to be expected, if you’re still being as active as usual,” says Albert. “Because of the conditions, I wasn’t eating enough to maintain my weight. I wouldn’t recommend it as a weight loss technique; I lost a lot of muscle mass. I wasn’t healing up as well, I’d get small cuts and they weren’t healing. I could tell that there is a health impact while you’re doing the challenge, especially when you do it for a month. But nothing that stuck with me afterwards.”

Besides a little bit of weight loss, neither d’Arcy nor Albert faced any ‘problems’ while participating in Live Below the Line. They agree that when participating, one has to try to not let the challenge impact on his/ her lifestyle too much. Doing the challenge with friends or family makes it less daunting, according to Albert. “Form a team of friends or family. As an individual it can be quite isolating being in a social setting and not having someone beside you who’s also doing it.”

It is also best to do a bulk shop before taking on the challenge in order to be able to purchase a variety of ingredients; “I wouldn’t recommend taking the challenge day by day—$2.25 a day is not much, you could buy maybe two or three ingredients. You won’t have much variety; if you buy for the week you can at least plan it out and buy more, and sort out nutrition.”

Having said that, it can make for a more interesting challenge if you do rough out day by day. d’Arcy is looking forward to challenging himself further this year by literally living on $2.25 a day. “I’ll be on the road while I’m participating and I can’t take food with me over the border so I will have to walk into a supermarket and just see what I can scrounge with my coins.”

Live Below the Line is a way to challenge yourself and experience how 1.4 billion people around the world have to live every day. It is not only a fundraiser, it is also a way to raise awareness and inspire others to do the same. Both d’Arcy and Albert found that when they told others about the challenge people would want to help out, either with donations or by taking on the challenge themselves. “For anyone who is to undertake this, it will not only help to change their perspective on life, but they will be a catalyst for everyone around them.”


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  1. Search the Bins says:

    On my weekly student allowance of $236, after deductions for rent, power and internet, and, say $20 for the occassional bus & some random small expenses, i have about $4.50 a day for food. Not quite $2.25, but close enuff to feel like i’m Below The Line already! Raising awareneess for the cause is all good, but seriously, whoever does the challenge, i hope u know where to get a free feed every now and then…

  2. WatterDee says:

    re: Search the Bins – remember that for those in extreme poverty, the $2.25 figure is also to pay for precisely all those things you’ve just deducted from your $236 (rent, power, internet, travel, misc expenses). Add to that all the costs of education, healthcare, childcare – that’s where their $2.25 has to go.

    Also, those doing the challenge aren’t allowed to accept free food as it defeats the purpose.

    You may feel it’s “close enough” – but actually it’s still half of what you’re currently spending on food. Why don’t you give it a try, and as you do, imagine yourself without all the other things that your $236pw buys – imagine trying to make your $2.25 per day cover all those things.

    This is the point.

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