As mentioned in week 12, I started Living below the Poverty Line a day early. Week 13 is mostly a continuation of that challenge, plus some other bits and pieces thrown in the mix. I’m sad enough that it felt like cheating doing the same thing for five solid days, so this week had me doing two things a day.
- Monday 29 April – Day two of living below the line for Oxfam (See feature for details). I also chaired a Marie Curie committee meeting, looking at promotion of the Blooming Great Tea Party.
- Tuesday 30 April – Day three of living below the line. I additionally made contact with the Exeter Community Initiatives regarding volunteering for either their bike recycling scheme or adult mentor scheme.
- Wednesday 1 May – Day four of living below the line. I signed up to Shine as well, answering a request to join Cancer Research UK ambassador Shine team.
- Thursday 2 May – Day five of living below the line. I also bought the Food share filter app – a fantastic invention that is integrated with Instagram and has the tagline ‘If you’re going to share your food, share it for real’. Genius. And a very unmathematical one million percent relevant to my challenge of the week!
- Friday 3 May – I donated to a friend cycling 100 miles in aid of City Gateway.
- Saturday 4 May – I committed to volunteering for Save the Children’s Speak Out programme.
- Sunday 5 May – On a sunny bank holiday weekend Sunday, I took full advantage of enjoying the weather whilst also doing something for charity. This ‘two birds, one stone’ was achieved by visiting a National Trust property.
Feature: Living Below the Line for Oxfam
Now you may remember back in week 6, I took part in the YMCA’s Sleep Easy challenge. I was inspired by the notion that an event could get people even remotely close to experiencing what those for whom we were fundraising for go through on a daily basis. Signing up for living below the line seemed a logical next step to have a similar experience, bearing in mind we were fundraising for organisations like Oxfam, who believe ‘poverty isn’t inevitable. It’s just plain wrong’.
The challenge was to sustain ourselves on £1 a day for 5 days, i.e. just food and drink. Taking things like rent, bills, petrol, etc. would blow the budget straight out the water in one go! Doing below the line and sleep easy in one go – no thanks!
I started the week one day early on Sunday, anticipating a business lunch I was due to attend on the Friday, where I could not ask for just tap water. Keen to get the full five days in, I started on Sunday 28 April. Having toddled into Aldi, £5 note in my pocket, I had in my mind that I’d be walking out with a bag full of rice and beans. Full props to Aldi, because I walked out with a great deal more variety than that – albeit it was stodge central with £5 not stretching far enough for fruit and veg (and no tea!!) But still, it filled me with a great deal more joy than the perspective of living on just rice and beans for five days (though, being half Mexican, I’m sure my constitution could have handled it).
I was incredibly misguided believing that it would be any easier starting on Sunday, as I had prearranged for a day’s sailing experience, which included a lovely buffet lunch. I sat with a small feast of picnic goodies in front of me, whilst rationing three slices of plain brown bread. I know. First world problems right?!
So, to give you the DL on the whole experience. Top line, it was a heck of a lot harder than I thought it would be. I tend to have a sunny disposition on most things, but I have to admit that even I was fed up by the end. The body really is not meant to survive on carbs alone.
One of my colleagues at work also took part, and we agreed that nearing the end we were feeling a little hazy! I cannot deny that I also underwent some fairly severe caffeine withdrawal symptoms. So between a malnutrition induced haze and a headache symptomatic and tea withdrawal, I was really rather ready for the week to be over.
However, I did take from it what I hope was the intended message, which is how much we take for granted the sheer level of choice we have when it comes to what we eat and drink. Rarely, if ever, would we have to ration ourselves, and we for the most part have the ability to choose to eat whatever will satisfy a craving. Living below the line hit home how incredibly lucky we are to have this choice, and put into stark contrast the reality that people living in poverty have to deal with every day.
An update came through just a few days after completing the challenge, saying that collectively we had raised over £2m across the world to support programmes and initiatives that lift people out of extreme poverty.
Though the ‘live below the line’ challenge is over for this year, if you feel inspired by the idea of doing something to help combat poverty, then why not join the IF campaign in London on the 8 June?