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04 May 2012

Taking up the £1 challenge

Taking up the £1 challenge

More than 20,000 people in the UK, Australia and the US are expected to take up the Live Below the Line challenge from Monday to Friday (7-11 May) by spending less than £1 a day on food and drink. Individuals, churches and community groups will choose to put themselves on the extreme poverty line to join with 1.4 billion people who are daily forced to live on that amount. For millions worldwide living below the line, the equivalent £1 figure is also to cover health, housing, transport and education costs.

Prof Ram Gidoomal, businessman, philanthropist and twice London mayoral candidate, is one of those joining the challenge to live on the same daily budget as 500 million people in India.

“Living on less than £1 a day is a daily reality for more than 40 per cent of India’s population,” he said. “By living on this tiny budget people will hopefully be inspired to take action against extreme poverty and think about life in India which remains home to a third of the world’s poor.”

In his role as vice president of The Leprosy Mission England & Wales, Gidoomal is drawing attention to the fact that while the country’s economy is rapidly expanding, millions are still suffering in abject poverty. Gidoomal gave up his high-flying career as UK group chief executive of the Inlaks Group, a multinational business, after visiting the slums of Mumbai in 1987. Since then he has raised more than £5 million for the developing world as founder of the Christmas Cracker project and stood as the Christian People’s Alliance’s mayoral candidate in 2000 and 2004.

Live Below the Line is an initiative of the Global Poverty Action project which works to increase the number and effectiveness of people taking action against extreme poverty. The campaign has now reached as far as Nigeria; Noel Bewarang, director of Christian Aid partner the Centre for Gospel Health and Development based in Jos, who has signed his family up said: “I am doing Live Below the Line because although I can claim to know what the poor go through, I do not feel what they feel. Most of the time I get what I want and eat what I want to eat but I really want to experience what it means to desire something  like food and not get it.”

Supporters can choose to donate to the different charities involved, including Christian Aid, Unicef and The Salvation Army International Development (UK & Ireland).

Redhill Baptist Church is currently top of the leader board for faith groups with a total of £870 already donated. Sixteen individuals have signed up including two families with teenage children. Hilary Mak encouraged her church to join the challenge after being inspired by several mission trips to a deprived area of Cape Town. As well as being concerned about the sense of powerlessness she will feel during the week, she said: “We want to get a little understanding of what it really feels like to live in extreme poverty, to experience hunger, boredom and perhaps most significantly, lack of choice and freedom.”

Live Below the Line 2012 has so far raised nearly £140,000. Top of the workplace leader board is the House of Lords, which has received over £6,000 worth of donations.

(Photo courtesy of Live Below the Line: Stars from The Only Way is Essex cook up a Live Below the Line meal)