£1 a day

Could you do it? Live on £1 a day for a week?

1.2 BILLION people around the world don’t just do that for a week. They do it every day, for ever. Unless they’re lucky and can find a way to generate some income for their families. That’s 20% of the planet’s population living below the poverty line and in Kenya that figure rises to almost 50% of the population (49.5%. It’s also worth noting that 1 in 5 people in the UK lives below our own definition of the poverty line…). And don’t be mistaken, this isn’t someone in Kenya going shopping with a £1. This is you, going to the supermarket and shopping for an entire day on a pound.

‘Live Below the Line’ is a campaign that challenges us to experience this for ourselves.

So I just googled for the Kenyan Shilling equivalent of the £1 a day poverty line. It’s 37 Shillings.

Then I added up roughly how much I spend on food in a day here in Kenya. I don’t eat extravagantly. Breakfast is a piece of bread and a banana. I go to the market near my house and buy a handful of veg and boil up some rice for dinner. But that still adds up to190 Shillings.

I know it’s naive but I’m sitting here truly shocked to realise I spend five times as much as 1 in 2 people in Kenya. I see poverty every day in this city. It’s unescapable. But to truly imagine what it would mean to get my spending on food down to that level is mind-boggling. It probably means one, very, very plain meal of rice a day.

I took a picture of my lunch at work today (Instagram alert?! #nofilter) to give you a sense of the kind of food I eat (every) day. There’s next to no variety whether you are vegetarian (as I am) or not. But it’s healthy with protein and greens. Now I realise even this is something very few people will get to see on their plates…

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You can read more about the campaign here: www.livebelowtheline.com/uk

And for the fundraising nerds out there…

This is a nice article by the guy behind the ‘Live Below the Line” campaign: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/stephen/live-below-the-line.

He makes a good point about it being one of the few experiential campaigns around poverty out there. The significant thing  about that is how unique it is in tapping into our ability to empathise or “experience another person’s plight as if we were experiencing it ourself”. Anything that can turn cold, hard stats on distant poverty and inequality levels into a truly human experience has to be celebrated. Even if you don’t like what it means for the dinner plate on your table this week!

Take a peek at the Jeremy Rifkin talk on the topic of empathy and how important it is to human development and society in the quite cool RSAnimate lecture series:

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