A billion below 'the Line'

23:51, Sep 03 2012
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Aaliyah Ormsby, 18, will eat rice and not much else for a week in september to highlight the plight of the poor.

It's almost here. They're not sure what they'll eat - probably loads of rice, some vegetables, beans and drink oodles of water.

Aaliyah Ormsby has teamed up with a friend. They will pitch their money - $2.25 a day - and buy collectively. It'll be 'interesting' admits Aaliyah, 18, a year 13 student at New Plymouth Girls' High. 'For me it will be a little bit difficult because I'm very picky with my food. It will be interesting to see how I go.'

In her household, people tend to be busy, opting for instant nourishment rather than planning. 'We tend to buy out or have instant stuff.' But when she embarks on a challenge to live below the poverty line - like 1.4 billion people around the world do - nipping to the shops won't be possible.

Danielle Blyde, also a year 13 girls' high student, says she will miss her cups of tea. While the beverage isn't pricey, filling, nutritious options will be the priority, says the 18-year-old.

'I want to stick to water so I have more money for food.'

She'll make the most of her staff discount at Countdown, where she has a part-time job, and buy in bulk.


'Rice is top of the list. I love it so that's going to be good. I've also heard about people doing well with things like beans and basic veges.'

A grain-dominated diet will be new. 'It's not the kind of thing we would eat every day [in my house]. We are more a three-veg- and-meat family with potato on the side.'

Danielle and Aaliyah join hundreds around the country in trying to live on $2.25 a day for one week, starting on September 24.

The campaign, called Live Below the Line, mirrors the 40 Hour Famine, run annually by World Vision - except there's no light at the end of tunnel after 40 hours.

And this is not a World Vision event, but a much larger campaign in which eight high-profile charities are involved. Each of the groups or individuals taking part chooses which of those eight charities to donate their fundraising dollars too.

Aaliyah has attended youth conferences run by World Vision and participated in the famine but acknowledges, "40 hours is very different from five days".

"With the 40 Hour Famine, you're allowed barley sugars and juice - I couldn't even buy a packet of barley sugars for $2.25.'

She aims to raise $500 during her five days of meagre meals, with all the money going to World Vision. Danielle is raising funds for the Global Poverty Project. The others involved are Oxfam, Unicef, VSA, the Tear Fund, P3 Foundation (a two-year-old youth organisation) and CWS - Action Against Poverty.

It's not just a Kiwi initiative but a worldwide one. In America for example, they will try to survive on US$1.25.

The figure of $2.25 isn't random. According to the campaign website, complicated calculations have gone into working out the Kiwi equivalent of US$1.25 a day. These include New Zealand's rates of poverty, inflation and purchasing power.

The Live Below the Line website is bold, well laid-out and interactive. Watch short clips from illustrious economics professor Jeffrey Sachs or actor Hugh Jackman; find out the names of organisations and individuals taking part; read an online magazine; enter into a short- film competition or jot down cheap-as recipes.

The campaign is different from others like it because of its "viral nature", says Will Waterson, New Zealand campaign manager. Research of previous Live Below the Line campaigns in Britain and Australia showed they generated more than half-a-million conversations on extreme poverty.

That's important because the world has the capacity to end world hunger - if it wants to. Getting ordinary people to become 'global citizens' - that is people who understand and are willing to take action - is the aim.

'The reason we run this is because there's so little knowledge and citizenship around these issues. The first step is basic knowledge and conversations about the fact that this stuff matters.'

Social media is helping propel its 'viral' nature, he says.

'Living on $2.25 a day for a week is a simple concept that anyone can do. It's something we can all engage in. It gets people talking. That's the way we push it.'

It's also a positive campaign. Does that mean they're not showing pictures of starving children to scare people into action?

'We have the resources so we're positive in the sense that we want to showcase solutions and we are saying, 'Yes, we can end this [extreme poverty] within a generation.'

'We're not asking people to become aid workers or sign up to give $50 a month to Oxfam. We're asking people to take informed action whether it's through connecting with MPs or sharing online conversations.'

Watterson, who has a British accent but attended Nelson Boys College, worked previously as a youth and community worker as well as travelling overseas.

Live Below the Line ran for the first time in New Zealand last year, with an estimated 400 individuals taking part and $120,000 raised. This year the target is more than 1000 participants and half-a-million dollars.

The campaign is well on track, says Watterson with more than $41,000 pledged a month out from the start.

Some politicians are taking part: National MP David Bennett, Labour's Jacinda Ardern, and Muteria Turei and Denise Roche of the Greens among them. Other high-profile people are expected to come on board.

It's not just impassioned youth who embrace the concept but people of all ages and persuasions, he says.

Trail through the campaign website and see a host of organisations and individuals signed up. Jonah Lomu and family are there topping the leaderboard - they've raised more than $4600.

The groups are diverse: Otago Scarfies, UN Youth NZ, Pakuranga College, Overeaters Anonymous, Auckland University, the Supreme Court and Anglicans Below the Line are some examples.

Back in New Plymouth, Aaliyah and Danielle exude conviction, while remaining tentative about how they'll achieve it.

Danielle: 'I'm hoping I can change people's perspectives and raise awareness of issues. In order to eradicate poverty we need to make people aware . . . some people live their whole lives like this.'

Young people are more 'receptive', willing to embrace arguably idealistic campaigns such as this, she says. 'I think as young people we're looking towards the future of the world . . . historically you have always seen teenagers getting in behind protests and pushing social activism.'

Still, "we want it all", points out Aaliyah. 'We are such a consumer youth and we want everything and we forget to give something, so this is a good opportunity to become involved.'

Existing on bowls of rice and vegetables may not be the students' last foray into social action.

Aaliyah, who hopes to study engineering at Auckland, is keen to become a schools co-ordinator for World Vision. Danielle would like to be an ambassador for the Global Poverty Project while she's at Otago studying psychology.


It's the poorest people in the world. The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than $2.25 (or US$1.25) a day. Currently 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty around the world. Live Below the Line says that is about 300 times more than the population of New Zealand. It believes that everyone has an obligation to reduce that number.

Where did the idea come from? The campaign stems from the Global Poverty Project founded by two Australians, Hugh Evans and Simon Moss. In 2010, they launched Live Below the Line. Last year it ran in New Zealand for the first time, with 400 participants, and raised $120,000. This year's targets are 1000 people and half-a-million dollars.

Why bother? It helps ordinary Kiwis get a glimpse into the lives of 1.4 billion people who have no choice but to live below the line every day and who have to make $2.25 cover a lot more than food. Participants get to choose which one of eight established charities they will raise money for.

What other things are happening? Chefs and eateries are being asked to help produce low-cost meals. There's a short film competition, with the winning clip to be shown in Aotea Square, Auckland. There are on-line videos, podcasts and a magazine all produced by campaign organisers. People can sponsor each other by going online. See livebelowtheline.com/nz

Taranaki Daily News