Think of a number. A really big number. Multiply that number by million. If the number you got is more than 1.2 billion then congratulations you are part of the more fortunate ones. If it’s less than 1.2 billion then ignorance is bliss, my friend. 1.2 billion that is how many people live on less than a quid a day. Every day.
1.2 billion. Let that soak in.
I am a student, so I don’t get to live in luxury. I work, I pay my bills, and I stock up my fridge. I’m very fortunate to have a bit of financial support of my mom as well, if I ever were in need. I live paycheck to paycheck and after all the bills are paid, I sometimes don’t have much left, but I can’t complain either. I get to travel sometimes, I get to eat in nice restaurants and pursue higher education. My life is simple.
When I first read about the ‘live below the line’ challenge, it stuck with me. I hadn’t really thought about it, too wrapped up in my own seemingly big problems. I had never realized, how deeply rooted ignorance toward issues this serious really is, until my co-worker, bless him, complained to us – how he had to pay for his petrol himself, while his friend’s parents would pay for theirs. And I believe his finances are probably limited as he as well is a student. When I brought up that there are 1.2 billion people living in the world in extreme poverty, he didn’t really have much to say. Somehow afterward I felt rude for even bringing it up. I guess ignorance really is bliss, huh?
It took me two months to get my bearings together and start the challenge. I started it June 6th and finished it yesterday – July 3rd. I initially wanted to do four weeks, however, in reality I did about two full weeks, since for the first ten days or so I had enough food supply to keep me going. I didn’t join the official challenge and didn’t really share this with anyone because I didn’t want the possibility of me failing and everyone knowing about it. My co-workers that I am together with 9 – 5 had no idea.
“By taking part in Live Below the Line you are drawing attention to the lack of choice and opportunity faced by the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty. You are challenging yourself to think differently about extreme poverty and about the choices you make every day. Most importantly, you are translating awareness to impact by raising funds for the communities and projects that need them most.”
To me planning out my diet wasn’t that complicated, I’m used to planning and sourcing the cheapest deal, however, I hadn’t realized how little £5 really is. My advice is to purchase frozen vegetables and rice, mix all with water and you have got yourself soup aka lunch and dinner. Breakfast was a little trickier, I splurged on porridge (savers choice obviously) since I don’t consume dairy anymore, I made the porridge with water – the taste was pretty much non-existent, however, the challenge isn’t about your taste buds doing the happy dance, it’s about survival. A treat was watermelon every other week on the weekend and since they are in the season, I was able to get a medium sized on for about £1.50, however, that obviously took out a chunk out of my budget.
Since £5 really is such a small amount of money, the biggest issues I had with the challenge was the portion control, it had to be small portions otherwise, I wouldn’t have enough food to last me all week. That is what saddens me the most because I wasn’t supplying all the nutrition my body really needed. I think what killed me the most after undertaking the challenge is the knowledge that while I get to go back to my usual life with 5 small meals a day, with 3 of them being raw vegetables and fruit, 1.2 billion people are out there struggling.
I followed the challenge pretty closely meaning that I didn’t include in the budget any bills or hygiene products – strictly food. This, of course, again makes it kind of only half true as, I presume, if people can’t afford food then toilet paper is their last priority.
June 30th was pay day and I was still doing the challenge since I don’t have the funds to really donate anything, I did the next best thing – I went to Tesco, bought a full and luscious lunch and gifted it to a homeless guy, that I pass almost every day. I encourage you, my handful of readers, to do the same if you can, as you never know that might be the only meal they would get that day. If you are a little better situated than me, than you can donate here.
Overall, it was a pretty miserable experience, if I am honest. The main thing that I learned – it is very easy to get lost in your own problems and sometimes it takes a change of perspective to understand, how some things really are insignificant. Remember to be kind to one and other!
Originally written July 4th, 2015. Edited December 12th, 2016.