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When Heifer signed on as a participating sponsor in the Global Poverty Project's Live Below the Line campaign this year, a few of us got together and decided to sign up to help out our employer. 'Why not?' we thought. Hunger and poverty are two issues we deal with every day. We're all familiar with the fact that 1 in 8 people are hungry worldwide; that more than 100 million children under age 5 are undernourished; that only half of women in the developing world receive the recommended amount of healthcare they need, etc. But as soon as we started talking about this challenge it started becoming very real.

I got us together and asked us why exactly we had all decided to take on this challenge. Here are the group's responses:

Linda Meyers, Community and Public Affairs
I have had some experiences living with a limited income—food stamps and welfare as a child for several years and having to go to food pantries temporarily as an adult. I've had to not eat a meal to make sure there was enough for my kids, and I've had to make choices between medicine or food for my family. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that it was temporary. Now that my financial situation is more stable I thought it was important to take a stand and be a part of spreading awareness of a very real problem, one where there isn't the hope that it is only temporary. I love hearing the stories of Heifer project participants receiving the gift of hope along with their animal and training, because I know from experience that hope is the most important element in being able to survive through the rough times and gives the strength that's sure to be needed to pull yourself out of the situation you're in. I think that the more people hear about hunger and poverty, in all it's shapes and sizes, the more help will be offered and the more hope people will have. Also, the competitor in me wants to prove to myself and everybody else that I can do this, if only for a week.  

Annie Bergman, Global Communications
My initial reaction is that this sounds like a seriously terrible thing to voluntarily sign up for when the broader implications are taken away. I know why it is important to experience, but come on. This is going to be hard.  (And I know this makes me sound like an ingrate, which I'm guessing I am. A lot.) I'm dreading the feeling of being hungry. And wondering whether I will have enough energy to make it through the week without snapping. The other part of me wants to prove that I’ll be able to make some seriously delicious things for $1.50 a day. But on further reflection, I'm hoping this will be a great way to put things in perspective in terms of how much I do eat, how much is wasted, and how much I actually need.

I expect the week to be a wake up call of sorts, and will give me a tad bit more understanding of the issues I try to educate others about on a daily basis.

Bethany Ivie, Digital Marketing
Essentially, I want to Live Below the Line to prove to myself that I can and to correct some unhealthy mindsets that I have developed over the years. Food is not a luxury for a huge number of people. For me, it often is. I eat out, buy food that I don’t need or even pretend that there’s nothing to eat in my house. My hope is that in joining you guys and Living Below the Line for a week I will be able to develop a greater appreciation for the resources that I have and to get rid of the thought that when I go home in the evening I need  or deserve something delicious. I don’t. Everyone deserves food but not everyone has it. I’m not expecting this single experience to revitalize my entire way of thinking, but I think it will be a great start and will lead to greater compassion and awareness about this issue on my part. Which I am all for!  I have rice and oatmeal and I’m ready to go!

I also want to prove to myself that I could survive should I find myself with less than $2 a day. That too.

Allison Stephens, Community and Public Affairs
 I've been "hangry" but I can't recall a time in which I was hungry. In the first couple months of working here, I remember Pierre discussing what it meant to be hungry, to always be hungry and the toll that takes on the body, the mind, the soul. The lethargy that sets in even though you are required to work, the challenge of concentrating to listen and learn, the fatigue from a long day and all you want to do is sleep but your body is cramping because it has no fuel. I don't know if that will happen in a week's time especially because we can plan what we will eat, but that's why I want to try.

Also, for the record, we're all striving to be more like Linda.  

Visit Heifer's partnership page to sign up for the challenge yourself, or to support me, Allison, Bethany or Linda in our quest to get a glimpse into what being hungry might really be like. Then, check back next week when we start talking about our preparations and our plans for the week of April 28-May 2 when we take on this challenge for real.  


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.