At 29, I stand on that precipice of the big 3-0, taking stock of my life thus far, dreaming and scheming and doing a fair bit of self-analysis. But when I step back from this fortuitous deconstruction, I am left simply with one fact -- I am fortunate. I am fortunate simply by the fate of being born where I was born. It is entirely by chance that I was born in a place where I do not struggle to find food, I have access to clean water and sanitation, I have a roof over my head and I do not face the danger of disease and unavailability of health care. I have the freedom to spend time contemplating my identity rather than being consumed by a struggle to meet basic needs, confined within the trap of extreme poverty.
1.3 billion people on this planet live in extreme poverty, that is 1.3 billion faces with smiles, tears, hopes, aspirations. Traditionally, these issues have been tied to the concept of "charity" which historically implies financial contributions. Although dollars are a vital component in the fight to end extreme poverty, extreme poverty is more than a charitable cause. It is a matter of justice. It is simply unfair that 25 percent of the population of this world should be forced to live in extreme poverty. This is the major injustice of our generation. Matters of justice require action, voices, and community. We need global citizens to rise up and demand justice for the world's poor.
I realize that may sound a bit audacious. But a movement is growing, made up of more than people making donations, but people looking for deeper, more dynamic levels of engagement. People are sharing educational content on social media, volunteering their time, signing petitions, calling their congressional representatives, taking offline action. It is a beautiful movement because anyone can participate, regardless of location, economic status, age.
One of the most innovative ways to get involved next month is this year's Live Below the Line campaign. It is an opportunity to combine online and offline engagement with these issues, fundraise for incredible charities and have a proximate real-world experience that offers a glimpse at the lack of opportunity and choice that defines extreme poverty. Living in extreme poverty equates to living on less than $1.50 a day in the U.S. (the World Bank's delineation of the extreme poverty line) for everything: food, shelter, transport, healthcare, etc. The Live Below the Line campaign focuses in on one of these elements -- food -- and challenges people to eat on $1.50 per day for 5 days while fundraising for a charity partner that works on the ground on extreme poverty issues. From April 29 - May 3, people around the world will take on the challenge together. The challenge replicates developing world dichotomies of community (it is helpful to pool your limited resources with a few people and take on the challenge as a team) and it is an opportunity for real offline engagement with these issues. I have found that I gain new insight into myself, a more tangible understanding of what that lack of choice and opportunity really means and an even deeper passion to see the end of extreme poverty within our generation.
This year, for the big birthday, I am going to urge my community to join me and/or support my campaign as I take on Live Below the Line in solidarity with the world's poor. Are you in?
Live Below the Line is a campaign of the Global Poverty Project; an organization whose vision is to see the end of extreme poverty within a generation. To register for Live below the line, please visit www.livebelowtheline.com. For more ways to take action, visit www.globalcitizen.org.