This week, my wife and I will be feeding ourselves on £1 a day as part of the Live Below the Line challenge. 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty, as defined by the World Bank at $1.25 a day. That’s for everything, including housing, education, healthcare, the lot. If 1.4 billion people can do it every day, we can manage it for five with just the food.
But why bother? There are a number of reasons why we want to do this.
- We want to stand in solidarity with those who live in absolute poverty.
- It’s a learning experience. This weekend we’ve done the budgeting and shopping for the challenge and I already know just a little more about the realities of poverty. God willing we’ll never experience the full helplessness of absolute poverty, but we can understand it better than we do today.
- I want to be able to talk more about poverty and global issues with my friends, and work out ways that we can make a difference together. We’ve had a bunch of conversations about what we’re doing already, and we want to inspire people to think about poverty and what they can do about it.
- Living in a culture of plenty, it’s easy to take our food for granted. We have everything we need and more. To stop and think really carefully about what we’re eating for a week is no bad thing. I am already more thankful for the amazing luxuries that we enjoy on a normal day.
- We want to raise a little money for the Global Poverty Project, which we think is doing some good work.
You’ll notice something that isn’t in that list: we’re not doing this because we think it’ll somehow help the poor in any direct sense. Nobody is going to be fed or gets to send their kids to school because we eat cheap food for a week. This is about raising awareness and starting conversations about poverty with our friends, and raising money for those better placed than we are to offer practical help.
There are small things we can all do to make a difference to global poverty. There are charities doing frontline work on poverty, but someone has to fund them. There are government aid budgets, but someone has to hold them accountable. There are international promises, but someone has to demand that they are fulfilled. There are businesses to discover, prejudices to overcome, technologies to share. All of these things depend on ordinary people understanding and engaging with the issue of extreme poverty.
It’s easy not to engage. It’s easy to forget. None of those 1.4 billion people live next door to me. Live Below the Line is way of reminding ourselves.