Most of us are aware of so many problems facing our world today; extreme poverty, wars and conflicts, global warning or climate change, deforestation, rising sea levels, the obesity epidemic, the financial crisis, frictions between the haves and have-nots, the list is long and frightening.
It is easy to dismiss those who believe that it is possible to end global poverty as dreamy idealists. We base our dismissal on evidence presented everywhere of corrupt despots holding governance, and therefore while this is the case there is nothing we can do.
It is perhaps less easier to feel guilty. Because every time we drop a coin to the street beggar, donate to charity, or attend anti-poverty campaigns, we feel a bit better about ourselves and our social consciousness. Every pang of guilt we feel confirms to us that we are decent human beings.
And yet despite the years of campaigns, concerts and various forms of aid, global poverty remains. Clearly something more, something different is needed.
This is where Live Below the Line comes in. It is relatively new anti-poverty challenge that started in 2009 by Global Poverty Project (GPP). Unlike anything before, Live Below the Line aims to change the way we think about poverty. And when the way we think about poverty is changed, a movement is born. To lift millions of people out of poverty, charities and aids are not enough, only radical shift in our consciousness can do that. Without a guilt and without a pity.
Because while guilt and pity might motivate your one-off donation, or even regular donations; feelings of guilt and pity will eventually act in opposite direction. In time resignation and feeling of hopelessness will set in. And this is when further actions are paralysed.
Figures show that extreme poverty halved between 1980 and 2005; from 52% of the world’s population to 25%.
So far only four countries participate in the Live Below the Line challenge; New Zealand, Australia, the USA, and the UK.
Those who choose to participate in the challenge have $11.25 to spend on food for five days while gaining sponsorship for charity of their choice; Oxfam, Tear Fund, World Vision, Unicef and some others. They are rules and there are clear; no free, donated food is allowed. If food items are already available to the household (such as: spices, rice, flor, or home-grown food) they can only be used if their cost per gram is worked out. Members of household can pool their daily allowances.
While living on $2.25 a day, participants in those four countries are still easily able to access clean water, warm shelters, medical and educational facilities. They can still text, use internet, drive, even buy designer clothing if they choose to. All things those living their daily lives in poverty cannot.
But that does not make the challenge any lesser. Because those who have experienced living on $2.25 per day will learn that, when hungry, no designer shop or electronic gadget however flash holds any appeal. When hungry even the most interesting teachings cannot be followed. When hungry, there is only one thought – to eat.
This is why the Live Below the Line is the start of something different, something bigger. Because it aims to build consciousness and teach compassion, understanding and education, rather than making us reach for our wallets to appease feeling of guilt.