Between 29th April and 3rd May 2013, I and at least 8 other Giving What We Can supporters will take part in live below the line to raise money for SCI. We follow the Giving What We Can team from last year, who raised over half of the £20,363 generated for SCI by the campaign. We have our work cut out for us, but have already made it to second place on the leaderboad, so are stepping up to the challenge!
First and foremost, why are we supporting SCI (and for the second year in a row!)? SCI treats Neglected Tropical Diseases. These are extremely prevalent in the developing world, affecting over a billion people. Most are caused by parasitic worms that live inside the body. They cause symptoms ranging from general malaise through to kidney damage, intestinal damage, disfigurement of the limbs, blindness, and death. However, they are comparatively easy and very cheap to treat, using the 'rapid impact package' that SCI administers. The treatment only needs to be administered once per year per person, and it only costs 50p to do this. For more information on why SCI is an extremely cost-effective charity, see our page on NTDs.
The Live Below the Line challenge involves simply living on £1 a day for 5 days. £1 a day is the UK equivalent of the International Extreme Poverty Line of $1.25 a day (purchasing power parity adjusted), determined in 2005, which is essentially the average poverty line found in the poorest 10-20 countries. The reason is clear enough; to experience firsthand a bit about how the world's poorest live.
I say how they live- I will certainly not starve, and the change in diet almost certainly won't affect my exercise or work schedule for the week. I won't let it. The challenge lies in the planning it takes to get in enough calories to stay compos mentis, and frankly, how boring and restrictive it will be. There is nothing sexy or interesting about living off Tesco value rice and canned spaghetti for any length of time, and doing this will certainly give an insight into just how much choice I normally enjoy.
I'll admit that there is something about the fact that these will be the worst of my problems that sits a little uncomfortably with me. My food budget will indeed be restricted to that of people living below the poverty line, but I will still have my safe and furnished accommodation, an abundance of clothes, and access to any medical care I might need. Not to mention a wealth of ideas and support on how to make the most of the week's allowance, including cheap, mass produced food in supermarkets, and menu plans from Global Poverty Project. The title of the campaign itself is '"Live" below the line', which is somehow not right, as for me, to live is to experience something with such depth and intensity that you know firsthand what a certain lifestyle is like. I will not get that from the week I have coming up.
These thoughts do give me a sense of perspective though, on just how bad things could be, and how great SCI are. SCI help people for whom the poverty line is not just something they can google to work out how it is calculated. These people cope with the restrictions it forces on them every day, and get sick as a result of diseases that could be treated for a year for just 50p. We are doing it for them, so please support the Giving What We Can team as part of this year's campaign. Your money will be helping people who really live below the line every day.