Article by Natalie Corrigan.
Think about this question for just a moment. We’re a country littered with EFTPOS machines and ATMs ready at our disposal. We have PayPass, PayPal, and countless banking apps that allow us to access money 24 hours a day.
But beginning May 4th, thousands of Australians will be challenging themselves to live on just two dollars a day for five days. It’s part of the Live Below the Line campaign, which started five years ago in Australia. Since that time it has branched out to the USA and the UK.
‘I feel like most of our participants are really engaged in what the issue of extreme poverty is and what we believe is the way to end it,’ says Strategy Director, Grace Watkins.
LBL aims to weaken the poverty that eclipses neighbouring countries like Cambodia and Papua New Guinea. However, this is not another ‘feed the hungry’ charity. Rather, its focus is on empowerment through education. 65 percent of Cambodia’s population is under 30 years of age, but many youths are cut off from accessing basic education.
‘We know that education is the most powerful tool that we can give people and by promoting and creating more education opportunities, that’s how we empower people,’ adds Watkins.
LBL is run by Oaktree, a non-government organisation with no religious affiliations. Oaktree works with Cambodian partners to train teachers, build new schools and provide educational resources to thousands of children.
The organisation has raised $7.5 million since its inception. This has allowed children and teenagers to complete their education and gain employment in the workforce. It is breaking the cycle of poverty that has swept through Cambodia. However, Grace Watkins admits that poverty is not a one-dimensional issue.
‘It definitely is a multi-faceted, complex issue … I think a lack of food is a symptom of extreme poverty not the cause,’ explains Watkins.
Hannah Rutherford is just one of the participants in this year’s fundraiser. She decided to get involved with LBL after reading about it in a local paper, but she says her recently deceased grandmother has been a strong inspiration. Hannah’s grandmother, a Dutch immigrant to Australia, spent most of her life giving to her community.
‘I feel like if someone who grew up during the depression and who had practically nothing most of her life can give so much there’s no reason I can’t do that,’ explains Hannah.
Initially, Hannah aimed to raise $500, but she has already passed this milestone by over $300 and her new goal is to raise $1,000. For Hannah, the decision has been both rewarding and a massive culture shock.
‘It’s a personal goal and a charitable goal. I’m trying to challenge myself and gain a better understanding, while educating other people,’ says Hannah.
Most people cannot conceive living on two dollars a day, but Hannah has gone to a great effort to prepare for the challenge.
‘From all the research I’ve done, I’ve whittled it down to eating the same meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve connected to the LBL Facebook group, that’s been probably the most informative part of this experience. I’ve also utilised the website and the forums,’ says Hannah.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Lots! You can go to LBL website at https://www.livebelowtheline.com.au/ and donate directly to participants. This can be done anonymously. You can read the blogs of existing participants and offer words of encouragement; Hannah says this has been a huge driving force.
Of course if you’re game, you can sign up to participate yourself. All participants get to develop an online profile and receive a welcome pack, which offers nutrition tips, recipes and other handy hints for completing the challenge. You can do it individually or as a team and all donations are tax deductible. Donations close on June 30th.