A Week Below the Poverty Line in River Forest

Living on Just $1.50 a Day

Natalie Beglen interviews Allison Kooser, River Forest Presbyterian Church

www.livebelowtheline.com #LiveBelowTheLine


This was my third year taking the challenge – and every year it proves to be a remarkable, eyeopening experience.

I spent the last week of April taking the Live Below the Line challenge – eating and drinking on less than $1.50 a day for five days in honor of the 1.2 billion people living below the extreme poverty line around the world. I quickly realized that hunger and extreme poverty are about so much more than food.

Why did I do it again? The short answer is that I believe that, as Christians and as people, we are called to serve those around us. And to serve, we must first see, recognize and understand needs. When hard things are far away, we tend to ignore them and pretend they aren’t happening. Extreme poverty exists, and although we don’t see it in our typical day, we still must take action. I took the challenge and encouraged others at River Forest to take the challenge with me! There were a handful of members who took the challenge for shorter periods of time and that was a good start as even a day or two can be eye-opening!

What was the hardest challenge? The most difficult thing was energy. I was hungry, but that was manageable. But when you aren’t eating anything with much nutritional value, you just get exhausted. By early evening, all I wanted to do was sleep! When I look at my friends around the world, they are working manual labor jobs, raising kids, walking miles for water – all things that I wasn’t even thinking about during the challenge. The other thing that is always sobering is how much I look forward to the end of the week. I know the challenge ends for me, but for someone actually living in extreme poverty, there isn’t a day 5. The challenge never ends because their challenge is called life.

What did I learn through the challenge? The challenge reminded me to take action and do something, because so many people are rich in spirit and dreams and love, but simply don’t have the resources they need to thrive. No one should have to live in extreme poverty. The only way to make a lasting change is to do so together.

This article was originally published on page 6 of the June 2015 Our Common Ministry, the presbytery’s newsletter. Download the complete issue.

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