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Someone Else's Life

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If there ever were a sure thing, is that life doesn't happen as you plan for it to. Exactly two months before my 13th birthday, I became a refugee. Between the ages of 13-16, my family and I lived in Kenya, the first year as "illegal" immigrants. Life as an illegal is nothing I would wish upon my worst enemy. I went from being a carefree child to growing up incredibly fast and having to worry about where our next meal would come from. My siblings and I were not in school and it would take a whole year before we got that chance.

So when I came upon Live Below The Line campaign on Twitter, I decided to take the challenge. Not because I was curious about what life without food would be like, but exactly because of what I had lived, wanting to do the challenge and raise money for charity appealed to me. But whose life was I going to emulate for a week? And would such a short time be enough to make an impact?

Oxfam GB estimates that 1 in 5 of the UK population live below the official poverty line (£124 for a single person and £346 for parents with 2 minor kids per week). Over 13 million people in this country, ranked as the world's 7th largest economy, are believed to not have enough to live on.

This past week I calculated how much I usually spend on food and drink for an entire week, and I'm using that amount as a base for my share to donate to a charity of my own choosing.

This morning I started my challenge of living on £1 a day for five days, and I've chosen to donate to Giving Africa, an organisation which focuses on improving access to, and the quality of, education opportunities in Africa, to fight poverty through learning.

Is it possible? I mean I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world (currently at #18 and #1 in the UK), so how will I manage to live on just that amount in London? In enters my trusted and able friend Hazel. This girl is amazing! She overcame homelessness at 18 and living on £1 a day for long stretches of time and she continues to be very money conscious. She's given me countless and priceless tips on how to live on £1 a day, all based on her personal experience. She's literally helped me do my shopping and set up my menu for the entire week. I'm humbled and grateful to her for lending a hand and joining forces with me on this quest to raise money to help others.

I realise that undertaking this challenge to see life through the eyes of those who have little to live on may not be quite the same, and I will admit to have questioned such missions and journeys before, as I believe I will continue to do so in the future, but the Live Below The Line campaign reached me in a way most other campaigns fail to do and I guess that's why I'm doing this. Or perhaps it has do with that time of my life when my family of 9 grown-ups and a sick baby, living as refugees, had just 20 Kenyan Shillings (£0.15) to survive on back in 1996. Whatever the reason, I'm committed to raising as much as I possibly can to support Giving Africa.

Cutting down on my food and drink intake for a week may not make such an impact or even change people's ways of living, but I'm hoping that the sense of empathy for those who are less fortunate, will encourage more of us to help. I've learned that if you've "walked" in someone else's shoes, it makes it far more easier to relate to their troubles.

Receiving the Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International in 2006, Nelson Mandela said: "Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is people who have made poverty and tolerated poverty, and it is people who will overcome it. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life".

In developing countries living below the poverty line means you cannot afford to take your child to the hospital. It means both mother and baby risk dying during birth. For many children, it means they may never be able to go to school. In the developed world, it means sky high debts that you may never get out of. It means not being able to move around and about, forcing those affected by poverty to stay indoors, living and leading a lonely life.

I have never raised money for charity in this manner before and I don't know how much I can and will raise, but I hope people will support and donate to the Live Below The Line campaign.

So far the campaign has raised over £300,000 and still counting. All I am asking for is a small contribution to add to the efforts of those who work to make a world a better place for others.

I had nothing to do with the events that changed the course of my life and my world 18 years ago, and neither do the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty globally. But together we can decide where the road leads from here on.