Sunday, July 17, 2011

What is Live Below the Line?

Here we are.  Getting into the nitty-gritty of the Live Below the Line Challenge I've signed up for.

Live Below the Line is an anti-poverty campaign that challenges Kiwis to feed themselves with the equivalent of the International Extreme Poverty Line for 5 days.  This is not the Poverty Line you might hear about in New Zealand (or other western nations).  While there are many Kiwis who experience poverty on a daily basis, and I'd not wish to de-value the pressures this places on them, Live Below the Line is talking about EXTREME poverty.  When we are 'poor' in New Zealand, we usually have the ability to go to WINZ and get a benefit...not much to be sure, but enough to keep food on the table.  If we lose our job, we might end up with either no savings or a maxed out credit card by the time we are back in work.  People living in extreme poverty usually have NO governmental assistance, NO savings, NO credit cards, and NO FUTURE HOPE of things changing.  Live Below the Line has been set up by the Global Poverty Project to help raise awareness and funds towards eradicating extreme poverty. 

The Challenge is to feed yourself on just $2.25 per day, for five days!  22-26 August, 2011!

Why $2.25NZ a day?
In 2005 the international Extreme Poverty Line was defined as US$1.25 a day (that means having only $1.25 a day in the US, buying US goods with which to survive on). $2.25 is the New Zealand equivalent (taking into account inflation and purchasing power).  So this is basically what anyone living in extreme poverty in New Zealand would be able to buy.  It is NOT what someone in Uganda (or elsewhere) could buy for $2.25NZ.  Their figure would be different, as it all depends on what things cost versus the value of the local currency.  To put it really simply: if you try living on $2.25NZ a day, then you're getting a good idea of what living in extreme poverty is like.

Why Live Below the Line?
1.4billion people live in extreme poverty!!!!!  In a world of great abundance, one in six people are going hungry.  Think of it like this: $1.25US a day would basically give someone two bowls of rice a day, with a few foraged wild greens on top.  They'd be left with 10cents leftover for everything else.  Yes, I did say EVERYTHING ELSE.  That's shelter, clothing, medical care, education, future job training or improvements, everything else except enough food to barely survive today.  Imagine that.  Extreme poverty doesn't just threaten people's lifestyles.  It threatens their very existence.  Your floor is made of dirt that turns to mud whenever it rains?  Too bad.  You'll all just have to get wet during the monsoon rains because your 10cents certainly can't get you a better floor.  Your baby gets sick from the dirty water pooling through your house?  Not much you can do, even if you could trudge the kilometres to get to a doctor, because you can't afford any medicine.  Later in the year drought hits?  Well, you obviously don't have anything saved for a 'rainy day.'  You get the idea.  Extreme poverty is not a temporary setback.  It is dangerous.  It is all-invasive, all-pervading, and far too common.

I believe we are all citizens of planet earth.  We are all called to care for one another.  I won the lottery.  I was born into a country with reticulated water supply, and a public health system.  I was born to parents who have jobs, skills, and education.  I got to go to school.  I eat well, I am never without.  My son has been born into a similar position of luxury and privilege.  For I do believe that we are privileged to live where we do.  You and I don't choose where or when we are born.  But it makes a HUGE difference in how our lives turn out.  And we CAN choose what we DO with what we are given.  If you know me well, you will know that I am the one who crys when I get newsletters from World Vision, Samaritan's Purse, or any other aid and development agency.  I have always felt this way.  Now I am choosing to do something about it.  I am choosing to live out what I believe is the thing God has made me to do: do something about the plight of people living in extreme poverty.  Give.  Share.  Influence.  Prod (yup, I do secretly hope to prod you into caring just a little too!).  Help.  Do something beyond myself.    Offer dignity and hope to those who have had it stripped from them.

So that, in a nutshell is why I am doing Live Below the Line.  The timing is REALLY bad for me.  The Challenge is placed smack bang in the middle of my busiest study time of the year.  Two assignments before it, two after.  Thrilling.  If I'd realised, I might have been tempted to back out.  But one thing I am trying to do, is not put things of for that 'perfect' moment in time.  You know, where all the stars align and everything just drops into place.  Doesn't happen all that often, I've found.  I'm trying to start doing SOMETHING and doing it NOW.  And not think too much about the time or hunger involved!  Grin.

I'm so passionate about this, that Boyo has even been lulled into doing the Challenge with me!  Poverty is not something he is passionate about.  He has other giftings and drives.  But he has decided that this is a big enough issue to get behind.  It's going to be an interesting ride!


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