Living below the line


April 27, 2012

Ms Perrott shows how far $2 can go.

Perth student Georgie Perrott is living off $2 of food a day to in her campaign for Live Below the Line to raise awareness of extreme poverty.

From May 7 to 11, thousands of Australians have pledged to spend the week surviving on $2 of food a day.

Most Australians would spend more than that on their morning coffee or bus ride to work – yet $2 a day is what about 1.4 billion people in the world survive on.

Live Below the Line was created by youth-run organisation The Oaktree Foundation and began with two Australians in their backyard discussing the issue of extreme poverty.

Ms Perrott is leading Western Australia’s pledge tally with more than $6000 in donations after becoming involved in the campaign through volunteer work for The Oaktree Foundation.

“I started doing Live Below the Line in 2010 and so this is my third year,” she said.

“The usual campaign goes for five days which is what I did in 2010.

“Then in 2011 I did it for 10 days, so this year I am attempting it for one month.

Miss Perrott said that Live Below the Line offered an experience like no other.

“You get to feel what it is like to be eating on so little each day that it affects your concentration,” she said.

“Your mind really opens to the fact that eating very little can affect your daily life.”

Money from the campaign will go toward the Oaktree Foundation’s educational projects overseas. The focus this year is on two remote areas of Papua New Guinea, Yangis and Kumbareta.

In Yangis, a project to reopen a school closed for 15 years will improve infrastructure, train teachers, give scholarships to students and build teacher accommodation.

In Kumbareta, there is no high school so the aim is to give students there a shot at higher education.

Hayley Pan, WA manager of Live Below the Line, is in her second year of the campaign.

“Although the challenge is eating on $2 a day we need to be aware that in reality 1.4 billion people live on less which means this needs to over food, housing, education, healthcare, clothing and everything else,” Ms Pan said.

She said participants and organisers had high expectations for this year’s campaign.

“In 2010 we raised $520,000 and in 2011 we raised $1.4 million dollars with over 6000 participants,” she said.

“This year we hope to have 10,000 Australians participating in the challenge and hope to raise $2 million.”

Unlike other campaigns such as the 40 Hour Famine, participants can still eat and if they research and plan their meals they can do it well.

“The main challenge I have faced this year is finding variety in the food I am eating,” Miss Perrott said.

“With only a little bit of money to spend, it is hard to mix up the meals you eat with the same basic ingredients of potato, pasta and onion.

Ms Perrott with 60 cents of pasta

“Everyday I am trying to cooking things in different ways.”

Ms Perrott said her favourite meal so far had been a vegetarian patty which cost 21 cents to make and had potato, carrot, onion and oil that was fried.

She has set up a donation tin in her family’s café and found surprising support from the community.

Alternatively, donations can be made through the Live Below the Line website.

“I will definitely do Live Below the Line again in the future,” she said.

“The impact it has on Papua New Guinea is amazing and the fact that a group of young people can get so much awareness out there and raise a lot of money is really incredible in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty.”

Photos: Alicia Campbell

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