David Simms, President, Opportunity US and Global Chief Development Officer, joined Opportunity staff and friends spending five days eating and drinking on less than $1.50 a day as part of the Live Below the Line challenge. He completed the challenge and shared his reflections with us.
Well, it's over. Yesterday I finished my five days of "Living Below the Line" of $1.50 per day, the World Bank's definition of extreme poverty. It was a humbling experience and one which heightened my appreciation for how so many of Opportunity International's clients live each and every day. Last Sunday, Kim and I went shopping on a combined budget of $3.00 per day. I quickly realized that I could NOT afford an apple! They were simply too expensive to fit into my daily budget. We focused on things like eggs, bread, rice & beans, hotdogs, pasta, peanut butter and soup. So what did I do without this week? No coffee - way too expensive! No soda! No ice cream or desserts - useless and expensive calories. No snacks during the day (a hard one for me) and no meals outside of our home. How could one eat outside the home for $1.50 per day?
What was my biggest surprise? The #1 question people asked me was, without a doubt, whether it was possible to live in the U.S. on $1.50 per day. The answer is absolutely yes, but it isn't easy. I was hungry all week. Very few people asked the parallel question: Do Opportunity's clients and people in the developing world really live on $1.50 per day (adjusted even lower to purchasing power parity in their countries)? Not only do they, but over a billion people on this planet are forced to do this each and every day. Not only do they have to cover the cost of food on that income, but also the cost of clothing, housing, transportation, education and energy! They start and live their lives this way mostly due to the fact that they did not win the "birth lottery" - they were born in a developing nation instead of in a rich nation like the U.S. The fact that I was blessed to “win” the birth lottery may be the thing that most drives me to seek economic justice and transformation for those living in poverty. I know if we can empower them to create incomes and jobs – by giving them an opportunity - they can lift themselves "above the line" and escape extreme poverty for themselves and their children.
The second most-asked question was whether I was losing weight on this $1.50 per day diet. I can report that I lost 5 pounds in just five days. The "best" diet I have ever been on! Maybe we can link all those millions of Americans seeking to lose weight into a "justice diet" and have them join us on this journey to provide hope and a brighter future through the powerful work of Opportunity International. By creating jobs and incomes, we really do give people the "opportunity" to Live ABOVE the Line.
I had a groundswell of support from friends on and offline and have many to thank for helping Kim and me surpass our goal. They were an encouragement throughout the week! As of right now we have raised $13,600 to help end extreme poverty. Thanks to all who supported us on this journey. We hope you will continue to stay involved!
P.S. - It's not too late to support our Live Below the Line fundraiser, so please feel free to do so. You can find our page here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/davidlsimms