I Choose to Live Below the Line Because 1.4 Billion Have No Choice
I opened the fridge and sitting there right next to the water was a bottle of cranberry juice. I could almost hear it whisper, "Drink me." On any normal day, I wouldn't hesitate to pour a glass of juice, or even grab an ice-cold soda. Then I looked up—why, oh why, did I look up? There was the chocolate I bought during a recent trip to Vosges. It wasn't whispering. It was shouting, begging me to eat it. I had to run. I grabbed the water, closed the fridge, picked up my saltines, and left the kitchen.
In 2012, I took part in the Live Below the Line challenge. The moment I experienced in the kitchen took place on the second day of my five-day quest to live on $1.50 a day. It’s not that I was extremely hungry on day two; it was that I lacked options. I had become so accustomed to eating what I wanted, when I wanted, that my new-found restrictions seemed not only challenging, but painful. The most difficult part was the shopping. When was the last time you went to the grocery store and only spent $1.50? The options are fairly limited. With a lot of thought, teamwork, and creative planning I was able to plan my entire week and avoid eating ramen for every meal.
In reality, I had nothing to complain about. Living Below the Line made me realize that I am fortunate. What for me was a five-day challenge is a daily reality for the more than 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty. Food access, not choice, is a struggle they face every day.
In the United States, most of us can't comprehend what it means to be without immediate, easy access to food. Within a five-minute drive of my home, there are at least four grocery stores, ten convenience stores, countless restaurants and fast food joints. A mother living below the line doesn't have the ability to fill a refrigerator with food to feed her children. She faces the unimaginable task of providing a home, education, and food for her family for less than $1.50.
Live Below the Line brings attention to the struggles people face around the world by challenging people to feed themselves for less than $1.50 a day. As I learned last year, this challenge illuminates how much choice we have here in the U.S. and how difficult it is to support a family below the extreme poverty line. This year, from April 29 to May 3, I'll challenge myself to Live Below the Line again and fundraise on behalf of Opportunity International.
Opportunity International provides loans, savings, insurance, and training to more than five million people around the world. These financial services allow Opportunity International's clients to build businesses, support their families, and plan for the future. They give people the chance to work their way out of poverty. They empower individuals and communities, and transform lives.
Like last year, this April I will give up my food choices in honor of the 1.4 billion people for whom Living Below the Line is not a voluntary choice. I will take the challenge, give up cranberry juice and chocolate, and stand up for people like Opportunity International's clients. I hope you'll join me.
Ian Haisley is the Director of Online Strategy at Opportunity International, a non-profit focused on providing access to savings, small business loans, insurance and training to over five million people working their way out of poverty in the developing world. Ian spends his time telling stories, sharing inspiration and being a dad. Find him on Twitter: @ianscotthaisley.