Shona, our Programme Director, took the challenge to live on just $2.25 a day earlier this month. She describes what it was like for her and shares the story of Joyce, from Kenya, who lives on less than $2.25 every day.Shona, ChildFund Programme Director
Between the 10th and 14th September, I took part in the Live Below the Line Challenge, committing to spend just $2.25 on food each day – which is all that 20% of the world use to survive.
Five days not so much of hunger, but of constantly being aware of what it’s like to count your pennies. Five days of closely monitoring what you eat to ensure you get the best nutritional value you can from next to nothing. And for me, five days of walking two-and-a-half hours each day to get to and from work, just to add to the reality of what it’s like for women living in the countries where ChildFund New Zealand works, where the search for water, fuel and food can take several hours each day.
A few months ago, while checking on ChildFund New Zealand’s water and pre-school projects in Kenya, I met Joyce. Joyce is a solo mother with many children to look after –including her own children and orphaned relatives. Joyce doesn’t have a regular income. She has some chickens, so she sells eggs, and has her own small veggie plot.
Her income is, in fact, less than $2.25 a day, and for that she has all these mouths to feed. So when the Live Below the Line Challenge came along, I thought of Joyce. I wanted a small taste of what it feels like to have money and food ‘there’ in my thoughts, constantly; rationing it out daily, knowing that if it ran out there’d be nothing.A wide range of colourful foods
In the five communities where we focus most of our work, ChildFund runs nutritional training programmes. So when I went shopping for food with my meager $11.25, I made sure that I did what we instruct the mothers of our sponsored children to do in the training – ensure a good mix of green, white and colour each day. It’s easy, and cheaper, to eat ugali, the maize meal staple many African countries rely upon, but there’s not a lot of nutritional value if you eat this alone.
For my Challenge, I substituted the maize meal for its cheapest equivalent here – semolina. It’s boring. It’s bland. It fills a gap. But I also learned after walking to work on nothing but a plate of it, that starch is not great at giving you energy. You need protein. And protein (meat, eggs, fish) is hard to come in many developing countries.Animals like goats can improve a family's nutrition
Which is why my experience with the Live Below the Line Challenge has made me feel even more excited about a project ChildFund New Zealand is currently planning in Zambia next year. Called an ‘integrated agriculture project’, we hope to work with 1500 households to improve their nutrition. Plans are to introduce goats for milk and meat, chickens for meat and eggs, fish farming, vegetable plots and fruit trees, so that each family has a mix of different food types to eat.
Good food is so important in growing healthy children with active minds. Currently, the community’s single grain crop runs out after 6-8 months, meaning many months where people’s only source of food is the wild fruit they gather, the meat they hunt, or what small amounts they can afford to buy in. The money they will save can be put towards things like healthcare or secondary schooling, meaning a better future for children.
Although it’s only a five-day experience, the Live Below the Line Challenge has reminded me how difficult it is for the 1.4 billion living in extreme poverty to get enough of the right foods to eat on the money they have. Your support to ChildFund New Zealand is a step towards changing this.