Eating on $2 a Day to Help End Extreme Poverty

Oaktree recently held their annual campaign, Live Below the Line, to raise awareness and funds to fight extreme poverty, Kathryn Mills took on the challenge and now shares her valuable insight with us.

From May 4-8, I joined thousands of other Australians spending just $2 on food for five days as part of a campaign run by the youth-led organisation Oaktree. Live Below the Line aims to raise awareness about extreme poverty and is a fundraiser for educational projects in Cambodia, Timor- Leste and Papua New Guinea.

Since its debut in 2010, Live Below the Line has raised $7.5 million towards poverty eradication and, in 2015 alone, the campaign has raised over $1.3 million towards supporting Oaktree and their international partners for important educational projects.

Something that encouraged me to take part in the campaign is one of Oaktree’s core beliefs, that the most beneficial thing we can do in Australia to help alleviate extreme poverty is to provide young people with education, so that they can make a difference in not only their own lives, but also in their communities. I strongly believe this isn’t just about donating money to change lives, it’s about what these funds can provide in resources so others can change their own lives.

Before the challenge began I researched and planned what I wanted to eat for the week. I went to my local supermarket and bought foods high in nutrients and carbohydrates including pasta, oats, diced tomatoes, lentils, frozen vegetables, bread and peanut butter for a bit of taste. After a quick stop to the Central Market just before closing time I managed to squeeze both potatoes and bananas into my budget with 50 cents spare (which I later used on the second to last day to purchase a 30 cent chocolate coated apricot bar).

As I’m not a caffeine drinker, I didn’t feel any side effects of the challenge on the first day. However, by the second day I began to feel run down and noticed that my reaction times when asked questions in class was much slower than normal. During the third and fourth days, I experienced what I can only guess was sugar withdrawals as I had a headache and low energy levels. Thursday evening was probably the toughest. As the headache continued, I went to Foodland after the suggestion of a friend and bought one chocolate-coated apricot bar that satisfied my sugar cravings and relieved my headache. Thursday night also led me to creating the best meal of the week– a banana toasted sandwich. By Friday I was so over my pasta concoction that I had been living on for five days straight and I looked forward to eating some proper, flavoursome food with friends who also took part in the challenge after midnight.

Shopping for food after the five days was different than usual. I went down the aisles and was overwhelmed with choice, happy to be reminded just how fortunate I am that I was able to afford these things just because of where I was born.

The experience of eating on $2 a day didn’t allow me to experience what real poverty must be like as I still had use of all the luxuries, including a roof over my head, clean drinking water, a comfortable bed to sleep in, electronics, and transport. I can’t even begin to imagine what life would be like for the 1.3 million people who live in extreme poverty worldwide. Taking part in this challenge gave me a new perspective on what living in extreme poverty would be like and allowed me to understand just how important education is in breaking the poverty cycle. The new perspective I gained and the conversations I had with people this week I will take with me in my future career as a social worker and I am very grateful that I got the chance to take part in this important and worthwhile challenge. The campaign and acceptance of donations don’t officially end until June 30. I look forward to taking part again next year, but probably with a different menu.

Words by Kathryn Mills

The Oaktree Foundation are still accepting donations for ‘Live Below the Line 2015’ up until June 30.

Visit Live Below the Line for details.





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