Bandsman Ben Still is doing his bit for poverty. For five days at the beginning of May he ate for just £1 a day as a part of the Live Below the Line project which is running in the UK, USA and Australia.
The point of the project is to raise awareness of people living in extreme poverty: the level has been set at US $1.25 a day and it is estimated that some 1.4 billion people are considered to be in extreme poverty. Of that $1.25 a day, not only do they have to feed themselves, but also meet all the other expenses: clothing, transport, healthcare, education and so on. So eating for £1 a day – and being allowed everything else on top – is comparative luxury; especially when you consider that £1 is somewhat more than $1.25. Ben explained:
“I went out the day before I started with £5 to spend on food for the duration. I bought very cheap pasta, reduced price bread, some tins of beans, a small amount of milk, a tin of potatoes and some cheap soup. I also bought a sack of cheap oats which was for my breakfast every day. Already at the end of day one I was sick of it, especially without sugar. It was horrid.”
Although Ben was part of a group of people going through the experience at the same time, he was still living in a normal house where normal meals were being eaten by others.
“The first day was the worst,” he recalls. “It was a day of cravings, wanting to eat all the time but it got better towards the end of the week. But I did feel absolutely exhausted the whole time because my body was not getting enough energy.”
There were a couple of highlights in the week. On Wednesday, 33p of his allocation went to pay for a meal at the House of Lords, hosted by the Speaker, Baroness Hayman, who joined in the challenge herself. On Friday there was a group feast where all members of Ben’s group ate together. Their 40p contribution meant they had the power of bulk buying and provided the luxury of a sausage casserole.
“It had meat in it. That was a nice treat,” Ben recalls. “It even stretched to an ice cream dessert!”
The Salvation Army is a key participant in the project, through THQ’s International Development department.
The Army’s “Generation Programme” is designed to help people living in poverty reach their potential by providing them with small loans and grants to get them kick-started to get them out of the poverty trap, like starting cottage industries. Ben’s group’s sponsor money is going towards the Generation Programme.
Taking part in the project has given rise to unexpected opportunities. “The best thing about it is you are talking about it about the time. As soon as anyone offers you a sweet or anything you say ‘No Thanks’ and they ask you why and you chat about it. It’s fantastic. Everyone wants to know,” enthuses Ben.
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More on Ben…
Congratulations are due to Ben on his recent appointment as Divisional Youth Officer for the London North East Division. He takes up this full-time position in August.