Victoria Brewster, MSW

Victoria Brewster, MSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Could You Live Below the Line?

From April 29th to May 3rd, those living in Canada had the opportunity to sign up for the challenge to ‘Live Below the Line’ with the intention to raise awareness, educate, and challenge themselves to take action and focus on what others do not have.

Below are a few words by Ariane Cartwright, Development Officer for RESULTS Canada, a not-for-profit advocacy group that works on international development issues.

Could you live below the line?

The short answer is YES! For 5 days this week I’ve been eating and drinking on $1.75. Since Monday, I’ve been taking part in Live Below the Line, a global challenge created by the Global Poverty Project to raise awareness about extreme poverty. In addition we are raising funds for 4 fantastic Canadian NGOs: CUSO, Raising the Village, RESULTS Canada and Spread the Net.

So, yes, I was able to eat and drink on $1.75 a day with a lot of planning and teamwork. I’ve been eating what you might expect – lots of starches and very little protein and fat. For someone like me who lives in Canada, it might be good to cut back, but for people who live on this amount every day the lack of nutrition and micronutrients takes its toll. On top of buying food, they also need to pay for fuel, school fees, medicines and other daily necessities. So it means there’s often not enough money for these essential items.

Currently, 1.4 billion people live below the poverty line, subsisting on $1.75 a day for everything. But it’s not all bad news. Since 1981, the incidence of extreme poverty has decreased by more than 50 percent.

For me, the challenge reaffirmed that living on $1.75 a day for everything is unimaginable. But I feel as though I have gotten a glimpse, albeit a small one, of what it might be like to live below the poverty line.

I should preface this with the fact that I have lived in the developing world. I spent three years living in West Africa from 2008-2011, working for local and international NGOs in Ghana and Mali. And it wasn’t always easy. I remember in Ghana we spent a week sleeping on the floor of our office because of seasonal flooding. And I remember the weeks of my life, and pounds, I would lose every time I got malaria or a diarrheoal disease. But there was never hunger for me.

As the challenge comes to a close, I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from my friends and family. As the Development Officer for RESULTS Canada, I have joined the staff and our network of volunteers across the country to take part in the challenge. As an advocacy organization working for increased and cost-effective foreign aid to end extreme poverty, this campaign has really resonated with us and our supporters, and as a result we have surpassed our fundraising goal of $25,000.

For those looking to take the challenge, I have some tips and tricks for you:

  • Shop as a team. Decide on the core ingredients you all want to purchase and buy them together.
  • Drink hot water to substitute your morning coffee or tea. It helps you feel full and keeps your morning routine intact.
  • Eat oats for breakfast. These carbs break down slowly and give you much needed energy.
  • Use social media to promote the challenge. When you thank one friend on Facebook many others will give you a donation. It’s a wonderful domino effect.
  • Throw those normal mealtimes out the window. In order to keep from getting too hungry, eat often and whenever you want.

As the challenge wraps-up, friends have been asking me, would I do it again? Definitely! The challenge is, well, challenging, but worth all the effort. I feel re-energized that I have moved one step closer to making the dream of ending global poverty a reality.

The Live Below the Line challenge is open until July 1st. To sign up visit,

If you live in the U.S. the UK, Australia or New Zealand; a Live Below the Line exists in each of these countries and it is not too late to take the challenge yourself!

Imagine over a 5 day period eating only what is in the photo above;  6 potatoes, 3 eggs, split peas, rice, noodles, oatmeal, diced tomatoes, onion, garlic and water.  It’s not a lot of food and many could eat this easily in one day.

SJS offers a special thank you to Ariane Cartwright for the willingness to share her personal story of taking the challenge with readers. Awareness, advocacy and education are very important to reduce and end extreme poverty. Although I did not participate in this challenge myself, I can say that the Live Below the Line initiative further inspires me to question needs vs. wants in all areas of my life and I hope the effect will be the same for others.

By Victoria Brewster, MSW
SJS Staff Writer


5 Days of Food Public Domain Ariane Cartwright

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