A philosophical discussion might rest on the premise that this should be viewed from the perspective that wealth is not just about materialism; you can have a poverty of spirit, a poverty of opportunity and a poverty of loneliness. As Mother Theresa said, “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” Likewise you can be rich by being blessed with love, companionship, freedom, closeness to God, etc.
However, recognising this, let’s just consider it for a moment from a purely financial perspective. Sitting with my husband in our three bedroom ex-council semi, I read on my laptop (because we have the luxury of not only the technology but also the electricity and the internet connection to use it) that the Global Poverty Project is challenging people to raise money for those in need from 28th April – 2nd May by living on less than £1 a day. It got me thinking about the cost of living and how much I spend a day in comparison to the international poverty line of $1.25 a day. Although I might not be regarded as rich from a UK perspective (I’d welcome your thoughts on the definition of rich – by material standards) I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from.
I spend my working days trying to develop programmes to support people in extreme poverty, such as this couple affected by leprosy living under a flyover in Mumbai, India.
But could I survive as they do on less than £1 a day? Well, if you take into account what I would regard as my share of the essential bills per day (£1.58 council tax, £13.33 mortgage, £1.67 gas/electricity/water) the answer is clearly no! And that’s without my phone, TV, internet, toiletries, laundry, car, insurance and petrol costs, luxuries that I have come to regard as necessities (after all it would be a 28 mile round trip bike ride to work and the bus would be £8 a day return!). So what if I just look at food and drink? Could I survive?
This week I will be blogging on my attempt to do just that, to spend less than £1 a day on all the food and drink that I consume. It’s been quite a task costing every ingredient, but the whole process has been an eye-opener as to what it might be like for someone living on the poverty line, where every penny makes the difference between eating and going hungry. It’s a shock to realise that I can’t just eat what I fancy, but have to plan every meal to see if I can afford it and adapt my recipes to save costs.
Going round the supermarket it was a sad to see how many individual items cost more than £1, how expensive the healthy food is and how difficult it will be to incorporate meat, fruit and vegetables into my diet, or any drinks other than tap water. Chocolate is certainly a no-no! I came to realise that if I am going to eat anything like a balanced diet, and not go hungry, I will have to fore-go my ethics of buying free range, organic and Fairtrade in favour of the cheapest brands. I got excited at seeing things reduced or discounted, and when I managed to buy 30 eggs for £1.75 (that’s 6p an egg!!) I was so relieved that at least I would get some protein, since meat was out of the question.
So what can you do to help?
- If you want to know more about my experiences and the recipes I am using then follow me on this blog.
- If you want to have a brief glimpse about what poverty is like then join me in the challenge and sign up to the ‘Live below the line’ challenge at https://www.livebelowtheline.com/uk/challenge
- If you want to help children in poverty then sponsor me at http://www.justgiving.com/Sian-Arulanantham1 to raise funds for the work of ChildHope or
- Donate to another charity that works with the poorest of the poor, such as The Leprosy Mission www.leprosymission.org.uk