To say I’m not looking forward to being able to eat whatever I want tomorrow would be a lie. But I also haven’t found the challenge quite as gruelling as last year. Perhaps a bit more tedious due to the monotony of the meals, but not quite as difficult or exhausting.
I’ve enjoyed the number of conversations that have come from my experience. It’s been fun to watch my concerned colleagues run calculations to see if I might be able to have just a crumb of lemon drizzle (a half of a thin slice came in at .10p). That means they are engaging with the issue and are starting to grasp the limited options available to those who live in extreme poverty everyday.
It’s surprising the number of people who desperately want to see me game the system and find sneaky exceptions to the rules. ‘Can I just buy you lunch?’ No. ‘What if the food is being given away for free? Can you eat it then?’ No. These questions highlight the wealth that we enjoy in the UK. The concept that I may actually have to do without for even a short time is difficult for people to understand. We are unfamiliar with lack. But for the 1 in 8 people who will go to bed hungry tonight, there is no gaming the system. They are part of a larger system that for so long has worked against them to keep them in poverty. But I believe we’re making progress.
For starters, Live Below the Line UK has more than 5000 participants and has already raised over £500,000 for various charities. That’s 5000 people who are engaging with the issue of extreme poverty and actively working to understand it. That’s a recipe for change.
The other question I was asked most frequently this week was the accuracy of using a £1 as the marker of extreme poverty. ‘But you can buy a lot in India for £1.’ And this is true, if we were measuring exchange rates, but we’re not. The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than what you can buy in the UK for approximately £1 or in the US for £1.25. If you click round to each of the Live Below the Line country websites you’ll soon notice that each country is doing the challenge set to a different daily dollar value. The Australians appear to be living large on $2 per day for 5 days. Though the dollar amounts are different in each country the experience is basically the same. To live on $2 in Australia is very similar to living on £1 in the UK. That’s because the World Bank definition is adjusted for purchasing parity, rather than exchange rate. So if you imagine what it is like to live in the UK for £1 a day – for EVERYTHING – not just on food and drink, that gives you an idea of what it means to live in extreme poverty. Does that make sense?
It’s been great to engage people in the issues and I only wish there was more time to chat about these things during the work day. Fortunately, the end of Live Below the Line is only the beginning of learning and understanding the issues surrounding extreme poverty. If you would like to learn more about extreme poverty and what you can do to see it end within a generation (our generation!) then please become a Global Citizen.
Though I’ve finished Live Below the Line for another year, I encourage you to sign up! You can take the challenge and raise funds up until July 1st.
Which reminds me, I’m just shy of half way to my fundraising goal. Please sponsor me here and a huge thank you to everyone who has sponsored me this week! https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/leannehooper.
Lastly, I’m so proud of the HTB and Alpha team who took on the challenge like champs! We are currently at the top of the Faith Group Leaderboard and have raised just shy of £3000. It’s been wonderful to take the challenge as a team and I’m grateful for their encouragement!