That was quite a rough week. Living below the global poverty line was much harder than I thought it would be, in a lot of ways, and there were some really great moments too. I will share some of the important things that stood out to me over the week.
One thing I realised this week was that I must have a pretty high-energy lifestyle, because I spent the whole week feeling quite weak and exhausted. I didn’t quite realise the impact it would have to have less energy input, with the same energy output. But then my next thought was; I think MY life is high-energy!?! How about those people who work 10-16 hours per day doing hard physical labour, and live on $2.85 or less… I just have absolutely no idea what it’s like to really be exhausted and hungry. Doing this challenge certainly gave me insight, but I am aware that I still had it much much easier than many people in the world do.
Whenever I convinced myself that I couldn’t bear to eat one more lentil or grain of rice, I suddenly felt guilty, embarrassed, and ungrateful. Even living on $2.85, I was still eating more variety and probably more nutrients than most people in extreme poverty do. You know you’ve got life good when you’re complaining about the TYPE, not even the amount, of food you’re eating.
I had quite a few angry moments. I just can’t accept that people are dying of malnutrition and deteriorating from extremely hard labour for very little or no monetary gain, while I am freezing my flat’s leftovers and getting paid $25 for sitting down in a library and tutoring a high school student. I am angry that there is enough food, safe water, and resources for shelter to go around the whole world, but that us Westerners are hogging it for ourselves, and pretending that dying, starving, over-worked humans are not our problem.
Since finishing the challenge, and going back to eating pretty much whatever I want, I am suddenly appreciating little things I’ve never appreciated before! Like, being able have tea or coffee instead of water, or being able to add flavours to my cooking, or being able to have something different for dinner than what I had for lunch. I actually got so in the habit of just not doing these things, that I was suddenly consciously making the decision to do them, rather than just doing them as if there was no other way. And oh the luxuries!! On Saturday morning when I could have a coffee when I woke up!! And an orange with my breakfast!! It was like I was in a five star hotel!! My fear is that I will go back to not appreciating these things again. That has already started to happen. I much prefer being appreciative of these small pleasures- it keeps life in perspective, as well as lightens my mood so easily and frequently!
Finally, I will add a more personal note. Another hard thing I found during the challenge was having to fight a lot of disordered-eating thoughts/voices/triggers. Friends had expressed their concerns, and I was aware of the possibilities of this happening, but I was feeling like I was in a good space and I hadn’t struggled with eating for a good few weeks, so I thought it would be okay. But, when consciously restricting my intake for consecutive days, and feeling nauseous and tired from energy deficit, it was probably inevitable that unhealthy thoughts would present themselves to some degree. Luckily I am blessed with self-awareness, and processed my experience with a friend, and managed to (mostly) work through it and (mostly) avoid unhealthy behaviours.
Overall, to those of you who have supported me towards this cause please know that your support (both in donations, and support of me doing the challenge) has not gone unnoticed. Not only have you given me encouragement and motivation to do what I committed to doing, but you have allowed TearFund to maintain the sustainable enterprise opportunities they are offering in Ethiopia, India, Phillippines, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, and Vanuatu. Because of you, women are joining self-help groups, where they feel empowered, collectively save in their groups, learn how to start small businesses, and loan small amounts of money for their children’s school fees or healthcare. Because of you, people are joining farming co-operatives, where they work together to improve techniques in agricultural production, and provide each other the opportunity to take their products directly to markets, providing them with more control over the prices they receive.
If, after reading my reflections, you feel inspired to donate, you’re not too late!! Follow this link, and it will take you through the necessary steps: https://www.livebelowtheline.org.nz/fundraisers/caraadler/live-below-the-line-nz