During an address from the 2013 Young Australian of the Year Akram Azimi, I took away a pretty profound message: it’s only luck that determines our quality of life. He explained that there was no tangible reason he grew up well fed and secure in Afghanistan while young boys his age rummaged through his family’s garbage every night for scraps of food. From his perspective, he was simply lucky to have been born on the fortunate side of his home’s wall. The idea that something as flimsy as luck plays such a crucial role in determining a person’s access to food and water, which are imperative to their survival, struck me as a palpable injustice. We possess these basic human rights in such abundance that it’s easy to lose sight of just how lucky we are compared to the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty around the world.
This is why I chose to live on $2 a day, the rough equivalent of the current global poverty line. For those of you that don’t know, Live Below the Line is an experiential campaign run by The Oaktree Foundation, where people live on $2 worth of food for 5 days. Participants are sponsored for taking part in the challenge, with the money they raise going towards educational facilities in Cambodia and Papua New Guinea. I figure after 5 days of rice and a flavourless assortment of boiled vegetables, I might start to appreciate the food I so often take for granted and maybe even get the tiniest glimpse at what people around the world go through every day.
Before knowing the facts, I was a self-confessed cynic. I thought that those who fought the hard fight did so with the best of intentions, but nevertheless, in vain. Once I shed my ignorant assumption that anti-poverty activists weren’t just hippies singing ‘Kumbaya’ in the hope of a better future, and recognised just how attainable their goal was, I decided I’d do what I could to contribute.
So here I am, far from full-bellied or satisfied after my somewhat unpalatable attempt at fried rice, slowly learning the lesson of what a lucky little lady I am. I may not have convinced you to brandish banners and storm the streets in protest against poverty, but I hope you might think twice about how you can make a difference.