Last time I took part in an Oxfam fundraising campaign, the 100 km Trailwalker, I had to be nursed back to life afterwards. At most Living Below the Line this week threatens a mild headache from caffeine withdrawal. More manageable, and a small price to pay for supporting the excellent work of the leading anti-poverty NGOs.
A team of Labour MPs has signed up to live Monday-Friday this week on $2.25 a day to support the campaign – $2.25 being the World Bank’s extreme poverty line converted to NZ dollars. It is good having a team for moral support – we divided up the budget and menu and are sharing some meals. (Pictured in my office eating potato and spinach curry.)
One of the most memorable times from my 15 years with Oxfam pre-politics was a visit to the highlands of northern Ethiopia during a drought in 1997. I took part in a mission looking at micro-finance and relief work by a local NGO using funds donated by New Zealanders. I talked with farmers scratching a living from land that looked like a desert to me. I spoke with farmers who had walked off the land and needed food aid to survive, and others who had also walked off the land but with loans from the micro-finance fund had set up small businesses including a bar, a furniture workshop and a chicken farm.
Ordinary people surviving day to day against the odds.
The thing about taking part in a campaign like Living Below The Line is that the small discomfort is a constant reminder over 5 days of how people in poverty face hunger, and what a debilitating thing that must be. It’s also a way to support the grassroots development work and anti-poverty advocacy of these great NGOs.