Reflections on Live Below the Line

 At dinner on Friday, you might have seen a group of us in the Dining Hall sharing a last meal of soup, potatoes and carrots together. We were a few of the Live Below the Line group of IH, after having lived on $2 a day from Monday to Friday. Here are our reflections and thoughts on the week to give you an insight into why we took the challenge, and why it is an important cause. We thank everyone who donated to us and are proud to announce that as of 12.30am today, we raised $1,150 for Oaktree’s efforts to alleviate poverty through education. Plus, we came 8th on the college leaderboard, raising more than JCH, Ormond and UC. Not to trivialise the campaign, but hey, it’s a fact.


Going through LBL while being involved with Cafe and football was not easy, but it made me really think about those who live in poverty. Don’t they have dreams and aspirations as well? Does living below the line mean they can’t be successful? It’s challenging, yes. But poverty does not define them. It is what they do with their circumstances that make them who they are. That alone was enough to push me on to complete the challenge.


Day 1: Hungry.

Day 2: Tired and hungry.

Day 3: Hungry and tired.

Day 4: One day left.

Day 5: Thank god.

Here I am, complaining about how exhausted I was feeling all week, while this is reality for so many people. As cliché as it is, you can’t fully appreciate what you have until it’s gone, and this week has made me so thankful for everything that I have.


Living below the line was honestly an eye-opening experience. Just thinking about how easily you can spend more money in a day than we were allowed to on just one thing really put other people’s situations into perspective. We may have been hungry for 5 days, but it was only 5 days; for so many people it’s everyday.


One coffee is $3.50 – a daily essential for most of us at college. $3.50 is a day-and-a-half’s worth of food for some. It was little reflections like this during my week living below the line that made me realise how imbalanced the world is. Thank you to all those who donated to help those in Timor Leste, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea.


Live below the line was one of the hardest challenges I have ever undertaken. The mental and physical challenge was more than I ever anticipated. The hardest part was having no choice or freedom, eating the same things at the same times every day. I have always thought that I appreciated what I had, but this challenge has taught me that I didn’t appreciate it as much as I thought. The main thing I will take away from this week is the value of $2: never again will I be able to buy a hot chocolate or snacks etc. without thinking of how much this is worth to people living below the poverty line. 


What I would like IHers to think about is where we all would be without education. The importance of Oaktree as a NGO lies in their aim to alleviate poverty through providing schooling to people in need. Education is a fundamental part of being able to explore one’s identity and understand the world. To quote one of my heroes, Gough Whitlam, in his 1969 speech: “Poverty is a national waste as well as individual waste. We are all diminished when any of us are denied proper education. The nation is the poorer – a poorer economy, a poorer civilisation, because of this human and national waste.”


Living Below the Line certainly changed my perspective on the food we eat. I was pretty content eating rice and lentils, but I definitely got sick of the lack of flavour. By the last day I just craved sugar more than anything. What’s surprising is the amount of food you can actually get for only $2 a day – you have to stick to basics, but it’s definitely possible. I realised how much of what we eat is just luxury, that I’m so privileged to be able to buy coffee to drink and Nutella to binge on. It made me very thankful for the abundance of food that we have. Rationing your week’s money and being frightened of running out of food isn’t a good feeling. Overall, it was a really worthwhile experience and I’m so glad I got to support such a cool initiative.  

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