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March 23, 2011 / kathrynllewellyn

Come Live Below the Line with me

Having been around extreme poverty in Africa, I honestly thought that I knew what it meant to live in extreme poverty. I’d seen it in the rural communities of Swaziland and through the times of hyper inflation in Zimbabwe.

When I first heard about this new campaign that was challenging people to Live Below the Line – eat and drink off £1 a day for 5 days – I thought, wow, what an amazing way to give people an insight into the extreme poverty I see in Africa. What an amazing way for people to get a true glimpse of that harsh reality.

Now, I have to admit I didn’t think I would gain anything personally from the experience and in fact, I undertook the challenge largely because I am running the campaign in the UK and I wanted to know about the logistics of doing it. Plus I wanted to be able to talk to people about the campaign with some understanding of what the challenge was like.

The way I tackled it was not the best, I have to admit and when I do it next time I will be using recipes and shopping lists prepared by people who actually cook!  I ‘m a coffee addict and so I decided I would do the challenge on £4 for the week and keep the £1 for a Starbucks coffee mid-week. I don’t recommend doing that. I was hungry and the coffee didn’t taste that great when I knew it was at the expense of a day’s worth of food. Anyway, I survived and when I undertake the challenge again, I will be doing it with a few friends and no starbucks!!

The thing that surprised me the most during those 5 days was that I was suddenly overwhelmed with a real sense of understanding. Those five days of having so many choices removed from my life. Having to sit and think about how I could eat from that £5, making tough decisions: do I buy two oranges or some slices of bread? It was like a light bulb went off and to my complete surprise I suddenly felt like I wanted to call some of my friends in Swaziland and Zimbabwe and tell that I actually get it now.

I really don’t want to go overboard with how much of an impact this experience had on me, but I feel like I really get it now. Living in extreme poverty is not about those images of poverty we are often faced with in the media, it’s far tougher than that. It’s about spending all day, everyday making tough decisions – life or death decisions.

The women I work with in Swaziland make decisions every day through the lack of choice. Do I feed my family, or do I buy medicine -there really isn’t a choice – they have to buy the food. Do I eat twice today and nothing tomorrow, do I feed my children all week and myself twice this week. Their choices are really no choices at all.

I have the most incredible respect for these women, who live below the poverty line and I am proud t o spend 5 days in May, taking the time to think about their bravery and raise some money that helps give them a few more choices.

I am choosing to Living Below the Line from the 2-5th May, because women and children in Swaziland have no choice but to live there every day and I just don’t think that’s acceptable and I am damn well going to change it.

Join me and sign up to Live Below the Line for Positive Women   www.livebelowtheline.org.uk/positivewomen or support me by donating: http://bit.ly/KatLlewellyn

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2 Comments

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  1. Matt / Mar 24 2011 9:04 am

    I’ve signed up to raise money for you too!

  2. i-kans / Apr 15 2011 10:45 am

    Great blog K!

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