For the last week I've been living on a £1 a day as part of the Live Below the Line challenge to help some of the 1.2 billion people who struggle to survive, living below the poverty line. I've been really encouraged by the response from our staff, trustees and supporters here at emerge poverty free who have got involved and raised over £7,000 so far!
As part of the challenge I was in a market last Saturday. I started with £10 for the whole week, as I was shopping for my son as well, who was keen to do it with me. We'd bought the obligatory porridge oats, rice, pasta and onions but we couldn't afford any meat, so protein would have to be in the form of tins of red kidney beans, a bargain at 25p a tin! The calculator came out and we found we could still afford a precious bag of tomatoes and three bananas to make the porridge more interesting, which left a few pence for spices and oil.
Living below the line has been challenging in more ways than I thought. Of course I expected to be hungry and grumpy but I didn't expect myself to learn so much about shopping and have to take so much time doing it; two markets and two supermarkets last Saturday morning planning for the week. It certainly makes you begin to appreciate the hard choices that so many of those living in extreme poverty have to make.
I have met some of those people, when I have visited projects funded by emerge poverty free, and the families are not just juggling prices at a market but also thinking about how to pay school fees and how to find the money for medicine when their elderly parents are unwell. The Live Below the Line challenge is not about experiencing what real hunger is like, nor is it about knowing what it is like to live below the poverty line, day in day out. What the challenge does do is give a reason to chat with people about this global issue and raise funds to help those in life threatening poverty.
At emerge poverty free we work through local partners in East Africa to help people lift themselves out of poverty. Sometimes this is through an education project or by provision of clean water, and sometimes it is by establishing a demonstration farm, so that local communities can learn about improved farming techniques and better crops.
We are supported in the UK by many people but last week staff from emerge poverty free and our partner, The People's Operator (TPO), an ethical mobile network joined forces to make a Come #DineWithEmerge video where the challenge was to cook a meal for 5 people, for £5. It was good fun but also quite a learning experience.
Being really creative and experimenting with my cooking has been one of the great benefits of Living Below the Line. As a result, I think that I'm going to be writing to the BBC Master Chef programme suggesting that for the next series they ask the contestants to cook a meal for three for £3. I think it would make great television seeing what some of our best amateur chefs could cook up and it would really bring home the difficulty of living below the line.