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For the first time, Heifer International has signed on as a participating sponsor with The Global Poverty Project’s Live Below the Line campaign. The campaign, which seeks to increase awareness of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty and also to raise funds, asks participants to eat and drink on just $1.50 a day—the international poverty line—for five days.

Between April 28 and May 2, some Heifer staff, including yours truly, will be joining the thousands worldwide in this endeavor. While I know these five days won't come close to the daily struggles of families from Bangladesh to Uganda, the challenge is no joke.

Take just a few of the guidelines from the "How Do I Do It" section of the Live Below the Line site:

Why $1.50 a day?
World Bank defines the extreme poverty line as living on less than $1.50 a day. Our usual response to this would be, "that's not so small, $1.25 actually buys quite a lot in most developing countries". Unfortunately that's not true - the $1.50 figure is calculated using Purchasing Power Parity - which works out how much you would have to live on each day if you were living in extreme poverty in the United States.
And for people who live in extreme poverty that $1.50 has to cover far more than food and drink—we're talking everything—health, housing, transport, food, education... It's impossible to imagine, but that’s the reality for an incredible number of people.

How do I keep track of how much I'm spending?
We recommend that you spend your entire budget of $7.50 at the start of the week. You can then use the cost of your portions to determine how much you’re spending per meal, to ensure you’re feeding yourself on only $1.50 a day. It is really helpful to take on the challenge with others so you can pool your resources, plan ahead and create a shopping list.

Are transport and other costs included in my budget?
No. Your $1.50 is only for your food and drink. You can drink tap water for free in your budget.

Can I accept food 'donated' from family, friends or colleagues at a meeting or event?
You cannot accept food donated to you for free. 

Can I grow my own food?
Yes, of course you can! However you must account for any production costs.

Can I use things already in my cupboard?
You may use items you already have, however you must factor the full price of these items into your budget. For items such as salt, pepper, herbs and spices you can work out the cost of each item per ounce and budget your shopping proportionally. However with items such as pasta, rice, eggs etc., the full cost of the packet must be included in your budget.

Live Below the Line

Already a lot of this has me a bit nervous. Sometimes I need an afternoon pick-me-up and grab a Coke from the vending machine. You know how much that costs? $1.50—the ENTIRE DAY'S BUDGET. Ooph. Good thing I'm a pretty good menu/meal planner.

The Below the Line site has great recipes and other resources to lessen the stress about this, and I really need to study up.  

I'm not the only one from Heifer participating, either. Our president and CEO, Pierre Ferrari, will also be chronicling his experience, and he'll be in Haiti for those five days. All of us from here in Little Rock, to Haiti, to Peru and beyond will be blogging and sharing video clips throughout our experience right here on the blog.

And you can help us. If you're up to the challenge, sign up to help Heifer raise funds and awareness. Spread the word to your friends and family, and keep checking back here for weekly updates on how we're all feeling about choosing to do this.


Annie Bergman

Annie Bergman is a Global Communications Manager and helps plan, assign and develop content for the nonprofit’s website, magazine and blog. Bergman has interviewed survivors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, beekeepers in Honduras, women’s groups in India and war widows in Kosovo, among many others in her six years at Heifer.