For the past five days I’ve been living on rations: tinned spaghetti, two-minute noodles and slices of bread.
No hearty breakfasts or lunchtime baguettes. No snacks during the day or beer after work. And as for my evening dinners, the irony of watching MasterChef while eating 69c cans of baked beans has certainly not been lost.
So what does this have to do with public relations? Well, nothing actually. Seriously, zilch. But I’m going to tell you about my week anyway.
A good friend of mine works for the Global Poverty Project whose vision is to end extreme poverty. Recently he told me about a new awareness and fundraising campaign called “Live Below The Line”, which has been designed to give participants a better understanding of the daily challenges faced by 1.4 billion people worldwide who are trapped in the cycle of extreme poverty.
The rules of the Live Below The Line challenge are that you’re only allowed to spend $2 a day on food and drink for five days. And no, you can’t use what you already had in your pantry or fridge and you can’t accept food from others. You can’t even “dumpster dive”.
Rather than simply donating a few bucks to the cause and going on my merry way in life like I normally do, this time I decided to get involved in the challenge alongside 6,000 other Australians this week, including the face of the campaign Hugh Jackman. Nothing like a bit of star power to rally the troops!
So last Saturday I wandered over to my local Coles and bought $10 worth of food and drink to get me through this week. I was so limited in what I could afford and so careful with what I bought that it took me well over an hour to finally settle on my purchases. Thank God for discounted milk!
And so my week has been testing – mentally as much as anything, but also physically. It’s hardly surprising how tired you get when you eat so little.
But while living below the line has definitely been tough, it’s also been a profound experience that has really rammed home how lucky I am … and how unlucky so many other people are. It’s also made for great conversation and has prompted many of my friends, family and workmates to stop and think about whether they could live on $2 a day – just like one in five people do across the planet.
I’m not sure how this experience will change my life going forward or whether it will realistically have any bearing whatsoever in the fight against extreme poverty. All I do know is that I’m much more aware now about the plight of others and am far better equipped to spread the word about how we can help improve the lives of those less fortunate.
When I wake up tomorrow morning, my week-long challenge will be complete. I’ll be able to eat or drink anything I want and my hunger pains will subside. Yes I’m excited, but if only it were that simple for everyone.
Read more about the Live Below The Line campaign or sponsor my efforts this week. – Kieran Hall.
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