When I was first approached about participating in Live Below the Line, I thought, of course. With Heifer International as a sponsor nonprofit, it makes sense that I, as the leader of the organization, would join in. While I am quite aware of what hunger and poverty looks like, as I see it every time I visit countries where we work, it is good for me to have a physical reminder of what it might feel like to be so hungry, along with the psychological challenge of feeding myself on $1.50 a day.
Then I was alerted to the fact that I'd be in Haiti during LBL week... And I had to think twice.
Would being in Haiti make it easier or more difficult to participate?
Living in Haiti certainly would qualify. Per capita income for Haiti is a chilling $250, which comes to $0.68 per day. A dollar-fifty--just under 60 Haitian Gourdes–for only food and drink should be a breeze. Except, as a traveler in Haiti, I'd be lucky to find a single cup of coffee for that little.
The upside is that we have fantastic staff in our Haiti offices who have agreed to humor me and give me some assistance. As I prepare for this trip I'll get their help figuring up a basic menu for my visit – likely eggs and rice – and they will make what they can for me in advance in the office kitchen.
A few things will complicate my participation. The first, and biggest, is the fact that it is almost a certainty that our visiting party will be offered food at each village stop. And when a smallholder farmer offers you food, you eat it. So I'll have to account for those "costs" somehow. The other will be my travel days between the U.S. and Haiti. Airport food is obviously off the menu, and resisting the "free" peanuts on the flight will undoubtedly be tough. Finally, I have to wonder what my traveling companions will think of this exercise. I will, of course, welcome them to participate, but that's not really what it's all about in this case. Not to mention, remaining a cheery traveler on fewer calories than I'm used to should also be quite the challenge.
It’s clear this exercise will add to my daily mindfulness about hunger and its effects. Already I have found that talking to friends and family about LBL has surfaced many issues. Most are struggling with too much food in their lives. The idea of insufficiency is quite cognitively dissonant. How can this be?
I'll be tweeting about my experience @HeiferCEO and posting here as I continue to prepare for this adventure. Connect with me and share your plans to Live Below the Line.