Live Below the Line Campaign – An alternative way to participate


Many people will know that from 7th-11th May is your chance to show your support for the 1.4 Billion people that live in extreme poverty in our world.  The idea of the Live Below the Line Campaign is to spend 5 days living as people living in extreme poverty do and while you do that, raise money to support them.  These people are much like us and with the same capabilities as us, yet they live in a poor place due to only to circumstance – they were born in a developing country, not a developed country.  It is my view that is our burden not theirs, as it is us who can help effect change in these countries through the many ways described in the 1.4 Billion Reasons Presentation.

800-900 million people go to sleep hungry each night and I was fortunate enough to meet many children like this, who survive on one meal a day.  While this is a meal that they treasure, they are no different to children everywhere else around the world.  They love to eat different things.  Brian loved to eat a burger, Oswaldo liked crisps, Ronald would eat almost anything and like it and Alfred liked sweet things, especially chocolate or anything fruity.

However, imagine a life with none of these things.  Every day is the same, with posho and beans as the only type of food to look forward to.  You would see the squashed mango on the floor and desire to taste the sweetness.  The discarded chicken bones had some remnants of meat, so you wanted those.  That discarded coca cola bottle still had some dregs in the bottom and so you wanted those too.  The water you nnormally drink is contaminated and so you love bottled water and if it is chilled it is an amazing luxury. If you can’t get water, then you have to cope, as water costs money

Cool water for the Acholi Quarter kids – see how much they enjoyed these bottles I bought for them

that you don’t have.  Every morning you wake up hungry and your next food will not come until the evening, yet you have to study in school.  As a starving child you may have other problems which cause signficant stomach pains and even ulcers, but you still need to handle this issue and maybe someone will help them with some food during the day, to help staunch the stomach pain?

Sometimes the food you are given will be contaminated – the posho will have maggots in it and the beans will have weevils.  However, you are told that you must eat what you are given or go hungry, so you steel yourself and eat the food, even though you know it will make you ill.

Luckily, some of your friends see you hungry and, if their parents have made enough money, then maybe they will share something with you.  Also, maybe your school sponsor gives enough money to pay for lunch at school and thus you can eat something at school.

Living amongst scrap and rubbish

Sometimes local traders will know you as one of the most disadvantaged kids and they will hand out a spare chapati in the morning, especially if you were seen collecting scrap amongst the rubbish, to sell to buy food.

At the Chrysalis Centre, they sometimes have food for kids, if it’s a special day or they’ll give you a drinks if you run around the 2km circuit and maybe even a biscuit.  Is it Saturday today, because there’s another project which gives out biscuits?

Food is central to all of our existences, but for these growing kids, who starve day after day, they need to think about their food more often than we do and also need to make sure that whatever is available, they give themselves a chance to eat.  It’s part of their very survival.

So, my proposal for the Live Below the Line week is this:

Firstly, think about sponsoring children like this.  If school includes food in their school fees, then don’t hesitate to pay for it – it is good value and will help the children you sponsor learn more effectively while they are at school.  Living below the line is for a week, but they will likely need your support for their whole childhood.

Secondly, try choosing one food only – rice and red beans – for the whole week.  It’s not the cost that is important, it is the repetition.  Have it at lunch and in the evening – ten meals or so of the same.  If you cannot get hold of red beans, then kidney beans are similar and these are easy to get hold of.

Thirdly, restrict your liquid intake to water only, but make it difficult to get hold of, from a warm jug or in another way less refreshing.

Fourthly, imagine a life where you are considered worth almost nothing by society and you suffer physical abuse most days, whether it is from a teacher or from a relative.  Sometimes you think that this is the reason you are given rice and beans, while others are luckier.

Lastly, keep following this blog, as this is where the voices of young people living in extreme poverty are most often heard on the web, whether from remote rural or deprived slums.  Best of luck with living below the line.

You can find us on Facebook here.  Chrysalis tries to support these children living in extreme poverty by bringing them hope for a better future and developing their self-confidence and inherent talents.  The picture below shows a “Maggots and Weevils” party, where we raised the children’s rights issue about being given food fit to eat.  Our maggots were Wotsits and we used baked beans instead of red beans!

For more information on the Live Below the Line Campaign click here

Acholi Kids at the Maggots and Weevils Party – they ate rolls, baked beans and the maggots were Wotsit crisps!  We did the party to feed 50-60 local kids, but also to raise the profile of the type of fodd children are forced to eat in the slum districts.  Maggots are also poisonous, so dangerous for already weakened children.


2 thoughts on “Live Below the Line Campaign – An alternative way to participate

  1. I see one young lad has a World Vision T-Shirt..Does this organization not work with yours? Who is providing these children with the infected/infested food they are eating? I recognize the stamina and perseverance in children, youth who know how and what they need to do to survive..Is there not also a recycling program that could possibly be operated where the children go to work in the ‘dumps’ for salvaging…where they could operate a salvaging/recycling of usable items and feed a pig or two who could produce more and meat to eat?

  2. Thanks for your feedback and ideas.
    A lot of the clothes that the kids wear have passed through several hands and I don’t believe that World Vision have worked in the Acholi Quarter, at least not recently. I do hope that we can work with them in future, as they operate a very effective sponsorship programme.
    Regarding the food – the local schools serve sub-standard food for the children, but, to be fair food is expensive in Kampala and often the parents of the children renege on paying for their school fees and school food too, so the schools rarely make a profit here, even with the contaminated food. If you talk to children about the food quality, they will tell you that they are taught not to complain, but to eat and many will also have lived through famines in the rural areas. They also seemed very aware, though, what would cause them stomach upset and what would not.
    There is at least one piggery in the Acholi Quarter, which is profitable. The main issue with this is that pigs are expensive to maintain while they grow and often people will run out of money before they can make the pig profitable. Pig-breeding is also a very effective way of earning money, though you need to have a mother pig (obviously) and pigs can fetch 2m shillings full grown (£500). I like your idea of perhaps salvaging food for the pigs and perhaps making a business out of that…not certain whether anyone has tried that.

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