Live Below the Line
HOW DOES LIVING ON $1.50 A DAY END EXTREME POVERTY?
In 1997, a 14-year-old boy had the chance to go to the Philippines as a Youth Ambassador for World Vision. There he met another young boy who lived in the slums. At once he realized that it was only by accident of birth that his friend lived in such extreme poverty. In that moment, Hugh Evans knew he would dedicate his life to making sure children like his friend would not have to experience such hardship.
Evans, now 28, went on to create the Global Poverty Project, an international organization whose sole mission is to effect the end of extreme poverty within a lifetime. There are many factors which create cycles of extreme poverty. The Global Poverty Project focuses on three main types of solutions to stop and reverse these cycles:
1) create quality aid programs,
2) encourage businesses to adopt fair trade practices,
3) implement anti-corruption measures at the government level.
There's also a strong emphasis on connecting people to the issues, and empowering them to take on their own initiatives.
The achievements of its members since its inception have been admirable. In 2007, after a huge awareness campaign, the Australian government doubled its aid commitment, resulting in more than $4 billion dollars being dedicated to aid programs that Australia supports around the world. Later advocacy efforts resulted in a leading chocolate company transforming its entire manufacturing processes to adopt fair trade practices. It earned Evans the title of "Young Australian of the Year."
Hugh Evans' philosophy is powerful:
"To see real change means you have to change people's perceptions. You must inspire hope that the end of extreme poverty is, in fact, possible. In the last decade, the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined by 25%, but more needs to be done. The first step towards this goal is always education."
Education for Action
True to his word, Evans launched an Inconvenient Truth-style presentation, which gives the full picture about the causes of extreme poverty and what can be done about it. The presentation, aptly titled 1.4 Billion Reasons to represent the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty, has been delivered to over 70,000 people around the world. It has resulted in more than 25,000 people taking direct action to address the barriers to end extreme poverty. It is now touring in the United States - traveling to 60 Schools in 60 Days - and is being presented by young social change leaders who bring their own stories to the events and inspire others to take action. Click here to see a short trailer about GPP's feature presentation, 1.4 Billion Reasons.
For Evans, the presentation is about education. It's about creating an understanding that systems - not people's decisions or misfortunes - create and perpetuate the cycles of extreme poverty on a global level. In the United States, it's also about clarifying the public's perception of the government's contributions to foreign aid.
"Many people have this idea that a high percentage of the U.S. budget is going offshore - in reality it is less than 1% of the overall budget. It's negligible, yet the impact on life-saving programs in developing countries is huge, especially in areas affected by natural disasters," Evans said.
"Live Below the Line" Launches
Complementing the 1.4 Billion Reasons tour is the launch of Global Poverty Project's powerful "Live Below the Line" Campaign, which challenges participants to live on a food budget of $1.50 a day, for 5 days. The 2013 U.S. Campaign took place earlier this year, and nearly 20,000 participants raised $4 million for ant-poverty projects across the world. The UK campaign was launched by Hugh Jackman and they raised £1m this year. In addition, campaigns take place throughout the year in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Participants who have previously undertaken the challenge say that experiencing the feeling of what it is like to live on such a tiny amount propels them to want to do something about it. This is exactly the kind of experience Evans wants people to undertake in order for them to gain an understanding of the issue on a personal level. Already thousands, including celebrities and politicians, have participated and reduced their food budget to $7.50 for a week. Many have discussed and shared their experiences online, sparking a global conversation.
The "Live Below the Line" campaign is ultimately about collaboration. In the online environment, it's about engaging with a community on an issue that everyone can rally around. People have the opportunity to activate in their own individual ways. For example, they can choose to start a personal sponsorship page which they can then use to tap into their own networks.
Participants in the "Live Below the Line" campaign can raise funds for either Global Poverty Project, or one of its charity partners. CARE, a leading humanitarian organization that fights global poverty by empowering women and girls, joined as a partner for the U.S. campaign in an effort to highlight the importance of aid programs which support the world's poorest mothers. Although "Live Below the Line" is a Global Poverty Project Initiative, you can choose to direct all the net proceeds you raise into CARE's maternal health programs.
Dr. Helene D. Gayle, President and CEO of CARE says, "If we are going to eradicate global poverty, it is critical to engage young people in the U.S. to speak out. Young people are not just the voice of the future; they are the voice of the present. This project is proof of the power we all hold to make a difference in the lives of the more than 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty."
A Chorus of Commitment
The "Live Below the Line" challenge also offers an opportunity to share the experience, which is critical. At the end of the Live Below the Line Week in each campaign, GPP asks everyone to get vocal with their leaders about the change they want to see. Although it's a digital generation, GPP will encourage handwritten letters as powerful messages of concern and commitment. These letters will be presented to leaders on Capitol Hill urging them to preserve vital aid programs in the budget, so that groups like CARE may continue to assist the world's poorest people.
GPP's three-pronged approach to effect change on a state level while mobilizing a grass-roots effort by caring citizens is working. For the current generation, it speaks directly to those who are finding their voice on a variety of issues by empowering them to seek real, powerful, global change -- just the way Evans did after meeting his poverty-stricken friend. And it speaks to all of us who see that our growing interconnectedness mandates that when we see a problem - whether it's in our own backyard or across the world - we solve it.
Numbers To Know
> There are 1.4 Billion people worldwide still living in extreme poverty despite the fact that there is enough food to feed everyone one and a half times over.
> Half the world’s population are women yet 70% of the world’s poor are women. They work 2/3rd of the world’s working hours, but earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property.
> 884 million people do not have access to clean drinking water, leading to 2.2 million deaths per year — mostly children under 5. Globally, we’ll spend $60 billion on bottled water this year — twice the $30 billion the UN believes is needed to give everyone clean water.
> One child dies every 3.6 seconds from hunger and entirely preventable diseases. This year, American households will throw out more than three times the budget of the World Food Program, which has $5 billion to support the world’s hungry.
> 75 Million Kids worldwide miss out on going to school, most of them girls.
> The UN estimates it would cost just $160 billion a year to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, while world leaders have spent more than $8.5 trillion bailing out failed banks and car companies.
> In 1982, half the world’s population was living in extreme poverty. By 2005 that number was reduced to one quarter. It’s feasible it could be reduced to zero if the world keeps its promises made under the 8 Millennium Development Goals.
Source: Global Poverty Project Presentation 2011