Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the tag “poverty”

“Very tough and extremely humbling”

Here’s what three Common Grounders had to say after living on R10 a day for food for three days as part of the Live Under The Line challenge…

23384_10151376398550219_1919569962_n“Sitting and watching others eat amazing dishes was absolute torture, but it did make me realise how many people living so close to me are going to bed hungry – how many children in our city are going without dinner and how many parents are going without food to make sure that their children have at least something in their tummies. It can be so overwhelming to think about all the hardship around us, but I’ve learned that even the smallest input, whether it’s my time, money, resources or prayers, can help to make a difference. This challenge is one that will continue to change and shape the way I view my life and the lives of others. It was hard but I would sign up right now to do it again next year because I believe it’s a lesson that we should be teaching ourselves over and over again.” – Jocelyn Bartosch

943304_10152978569880720_1950582601_n“This year was the first time I attempted to Live Under The Line and to be honest I found it very tough and extremely humbling. I work in the construction industry and saw that what I ate over the last few days was pretty much the norm for many of my colleagues who are manual labourers. This hit home hard as I do no manual labour and I was struggling from the lack of nourishment. I had no energy, I was hungry and I had a headache. My colleagues who do manual labour all day never complain about feeling tired or hungry or having a headache. What was even more humbling was the fact that at any time I could just simply throw in the towel, walk across the street and buy myself something to eat and drink. This however is not an option for my colleagues or for 13 000 000 South Africans.This challenge has made me realise exactly how much God has blessed me and has challenged me to get more involved with social upliftment programmes.” – Brad van der Westhuizen

17101_10152169117095212_1164264679_n“The LUTL challenge has had a huge impact on my life. It’s helped me understand what the majority of our country goes through on a daily basis and the kinds of struggles they experience. Suddenly, when you are trying to work out the problem of how best to spend the little money you have, the smaller, selfish, insignificant struggles fall away showing you what’s really important. Instead of thinking with your mind about an issue, you get to feel it with your tummy. It’s amazing how that can affect one’s decisions. It’s definitely changed my outlook on poverty and it’s made it more real for me as opposed to it just being an issue we have to put up with.” – Samantha Tobias

What was your experience of LUTL like?

P.S. Other great LUTL reads: “My Live Under The Line Diary” by Phil Olckers and “What It Felt Like To Be Homeless” by Richard Bolland

My Live Under The Line Diary

The final day of the Live Under The Line challenge is drawing to a close, but as many of us contemplate our first ‘above the line’ meal in days, Phil Olckers reflects on his three-day experience.

"It just hit me how blessed I really am"

“It just hit me how blessed I really am”

So Monday morning started a little crazy for me. The Live Under The Line challenge kind of slipped my mind a little bit over the weekend, and after church on Sunday evening it was too late, and I was too lazy, to go and do my grocery shopping. I woke up Monday pretty hungry, about to smash a bowl of Pronutro and coffee as I often do on a Monday morning, but then I remembered I was supposed to be “Living Under The Line,” so a glass of water had to do the trick. (Thank God for clean running tap water!) And off I went to start the day.

I had a really busy morning at work so only got around to go shopping at about 10:30ish. By then I was starving and very tempted to call it all off. But the fact that I had committed to speaking in front of church kept me going. I can’t lie, that was the only reason. So after quite a few calculations, I managed to work out a perfectly good LUTL diet for the next three days.

I carefully picked three decent-sized bananas. Usually I’d just go for the best looking ones, but now I had to try keep this cheap, so had to take size into consideration here. Then a loaf of un-sliced freshly baked bread. It was  the cheapest option, but  turned out to be the best (the bread is AMAZING!) A jar of peanut butter, which luckily for me was on promotion, so I scored R3 leftover, and oats for breakfast. My menu then became oats for breakfast, peanut butter and bread for lunch and dinner, and a banana as a snack.

Day 1

I struggled. My body was a bit man down from a general flu-ish feeling. But I had committed so I didn’t give in. I did a 12km run after work – I really enjoy training and staying fit – but I was seriously craving a full meal afterwards with a proper portion of meat. But two slices of bread had to do the trick and off I went to a farewell where everyone was eating food and drinking beer – I had my water. Live Under The Line was a great conversation starter and got a lot of people thinking and inspired, so I’m glad I stuck out day one.

Day 2

My mind was now in the game. I was so ready for day two. I mean it’s actually a lot to eat considering people who really live under the line. Got to work and when I reached over to get my packet of lunch for the day, the horror hit. I forgot it at home. Noooo. Luckily, I had spare oats at work and the R3 I saved thanks to the peanut butter promotion, so a R3 delicious roll from Spar served me for lunch.

Was still feeling flu-ish though, so I bought some Corenza-C and a Lucozade. I debated for a while whether I could buy these, but the whole point of LUTL for me is the change it brings to my heart, and so I decided to take the “stay healthy” route. This challenge made me realise how expensive even just your basic everyday medicine is – in one day I blew five days worth of budget for about three days worth of medicine. to treat a common cold.

Did another run, so I really needed that Lucozade energy. This made me realise that I wouldn’t be able to keep up my training program if I was living on R10 a day. Even after just two days I could feel my energy decreased significantly.

Day 3

It’s my birthday today so saying no to cake is going to be difficult. I bought a cake for all my colleagues at work, so I get to watch them enjoy it – not looking forward to that! But, hey, hopefully it opens up some more awesome conversations.

Went swimming at 6am, and after that my girlfriend gave me my birthday present and wanted to surprise me with a smoothie. I then remembered I was LUTL’ing… But… I can’t lie, I cheated, I let her buy me one. It’s my birthday – I’m allowed a treat, right? Besides, my R10 diet isn’t really helping me stay energised with my training program, so I really needed it this morning. I will do my best to stick to it for the rest of the day, but the temptation to quit and enjoy birthday treats is really getting to me.

Final thoughts

This year, LUTL has been a good one for my heart. The first time I did it in 2011 I was really excited and on such a buzz afterwards, phoning Common Good peeps and wanting to give, give, give. But that disappeared after a month. During last year’s LUTL challenge I just wanted to get it over and done with. I got a little bit annoyed with it and it didn’t really do much for me. But this year, LUTL really got me thinking.

I walked past a beggar yesterday. I had a wallet full of money and could have easily given him some food, but I just though about my own stomach and shrugged him off. I’m not changing over night, but this year the challenge is really causing me to ask God to help change the way I view all the things I have and earn in this life. I’m also asking God to reveal to me how I can give more effectively and allow him into that part of my life.

For now I’m just grateful for all that I have, but I’m really praying for God to help me become more gracious and joyful with my giving. It’s a slow process but at least the praying for that has started now.

– Phil is a Sound Engineer. He works at a film company in Cape Town doing Sound Design and Final Mixing for feature films. He is part of the Common Ground Constantiaberg PM community.

P.S. Other great LUTL reads: “What It Felt Like To Be Homeless” by Richard Bolland, and “Why My Family Is Going Hungry” by Julie Williams

What It Felt Like To Be Homeless

As we hit day one of the Live Under the Line challenge, Richard Bolland shares with us his experience of homelessness when even R10 a day was a luxury.

Photo © Andrea Gema Photography

Photo © Andrea Gema Photography

In March this year I went through an experience that changed my life. I became homeless. It was only for five days but I will never forget the effect it had on me. For the first time I really experienced what it was like to be without a home, a cellphone, money and transport.

This week as hundreds of us around the city are taking part in the Live Under the Line challenge, I keep thinking back to my five days of homelessness when I didn’t even have R10 a day. I had nothing. Technically I couldn’t even afford the shelter fees, but they let me in each night and in return I worked the garden or helped the kitchen.

The food was plentiful but it was unclean. It took only 24 hours before my stomach turned against me and let’s just say the bathrooms were vile. I had no choice. I either had to eat what was provided and hope I didn’t get sick – or go hungry. The latter sounded worse.

Being hungry was a problem I could always resolve. At home I’d check the fridge and the cupboards, and if there wasn’t anything in there, I’d make a quick dash to the shops. But in the shelter that wasn’t an option. I was bound by the shelter’s rules. Breakfast at 07:00. Dinner at 18:00. No food allowed in the dorms. No food allowed in your locker. Occasionally we would get dessert if Virgin Active Snack Bar or Pick n Pay donated their past-sell-by-date food. It was something we all looked forward to. They usually reserved it for Sunday night after church.

What happens when you run out of milk and the shops are closed? You probably ask the neighbour or phone a friend, right? The biggest difference I noticed when becoming homeless was the lack of community. There was no teaming up for LUTL meals in the homeless world. You couldn’t tell your buddy to bring the salad and you’ll grab the rolls.

You don’t trust anyone. Repeat line for emphasis. You do not trust anyone. You live for yourself. You stick to the rules and hope no one gives you beef. When you live on the street or in the shelter you watch your back. Always. Favours are currency and if you’re in debt then you’re expected to do anything to pay it back.

It was difficult going back to society after this experience. I noticed the homeless a lot more. I understood why people slept in the park or ate out of bins. ‘Funny money’ is a career. Selling newspapers is a job. The biggest thing that changed for me was that I empathised with the homeless a lot more.

My hope is that through the Live Under the Line challenge people will not only begin to understand the hardships of living on R10 a day but that they would actively seek ways to improve the lives of those who don’t have any option but to live on R10 or less a day.

My hope is this challenge will help us to move from being ‘observers of poverty’ to ‘changers of poverty.’ That when we see a homeless person scratching in our bin looking for things to eat or sell, we’ll stop and speak to them. We’ll find out their story, instead of chasing them away. That we’ll learn about shelters and how they work. We’ll volunteer at organisations and donate money. That we’ll play a role in changing this city. It’s the least we can do.

–       Richard is the Creative Director at Common Ground Church and is a member of the Rondebosch PM congregation.

Get Involved

If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can serve those who are homeless in our city, why not visit the New Hope Street & Shelter Ministry? Email us for more info.

P.S. Some other great LUTL reads: “Why My Family Is Going Hungry” by Julie Williams and “Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes” by Murray Armstrong

Let us know how your LUTL challenge is going! Join the LUTL Facebook event page and share your stories.

For a full account of Richard’s shelter experience, click here.

Living Under The What?

There are only a few days to go until the Live Under the Line challenge kicks off! Wondering what this is all about?


If you’re lucky enough to have a R10 note nearby indulge us for a moment by taking a good long hard look at it. Think about what you could spend it on. You could probably buy a chocolate or a newspaper with maybe R2 to spare, but what if that R10 note was all you had to survive on for the day?

You could buy a head of broccoli or a bunch of carrots from Pick ‘n Pay but it wouldn’t get you much further than that. What about transport, shelter, medicine, and clothing?

The international poverty line is the minimum level of income deemed adequate by the World Bank for survival. Currently, this amount is set at $1.25, which equates to about R10 (depending on the exchange rate).  After doing the above exercise you’re probably wondering how on earth anyone can survive on that.

But, according to the Human Development Report Office (HDRO), there are estimated to be over 13 million South Africans who are living below the international poverty line. That means that one in four of us is surviving on R10 or less a day to meet all of our basic needs.

In a country with such extreme inequality it can be difficult for those of us who are educated and employed to imagine what living under the poverty line must be like. In many ways it’s beyond our scope of imagination. That is unless we actually try to do it.

The Live Under The Line (LUTL) challenge is a call to consume no more than R10 a day on food for three days – from 6am on Monday, 9 September, to midnight on Wednesday, 11 September 2013.

We realise that this will in no way be an honest reflection of what life is really like for those living under the poverty line but we do hope that it will give us just a small taste of how a quarter of our country lives every day, and that in the process we will have our hearts freshly stirred to better love our neighbours.

Visit the Common Good website for more info and to download recipes, guidelines and prayer pointers.

Here are also a couple of great articles we’d recommend you read in the lead up to the challenge:

“Why My Family Is Going Hungry” by Julie Williams

“Through The Eyes Of A Child” by Ena Hewitt (A blog about a family’s experience of living in a township for a month)

“Live Under The Line: Do You See?” by Garrett Loubser

“Learning To Live On Less” by Kirsten Wilkins

“How We Came To Pay A Living Wage” by Nigel Branken

“What Did You Have To Say?” – Feedback from last year’s challenge

What are some of your thoughts in the lead up to the challenge?

Why My Family Is Going Hungry

Every mother wants her children to be healthy so why would you choose to feed your family on a daily budget of R10 per person? Julie Williams shares why they’ve decided to take on the LUTL challenge.

Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc

Next week, our family, together with thousands of others in our city, will embark on a three-day challenge to Live Under The Line (LUTL). This means that for three days we will attempt to identify with those living below the poverty line in our country by living on a daily budget of R10 per person per day.

In reality, this exercise is a lot like Bear Grylls attempting to summit Everest and getting dropped off via helicopter 10 metres from the top, then claiming all the glory before getting flown off again to safety.

I’m well aware that for the more than 13 million people in our country for whom living below the poverty line is a daily reality, their R10 has to stretch impossibly further than food (transport, housing, water, electricity, education, clothing, medicine). But still, attempting to convince my boys that life is still worth living without Honey Cheerios in the morning feels like an equally impossible challenge.

So why bother? Why sign up for the impending storm of tears when my little ones discover that juice is not a birthright and that chicken does not grow on (cheap) trees?

Precisely because these are tears that need to be shed. In fact, they are well overdue. It’s an unquestioned principle, that as parents of reasonable means, we do all we can to ensure our kids are protected, well-fed, nurtured and provided for in every way. But I’m beginning to realize that in my attempt to protect my kids from all pain, I run the very real risk of numbing them to others’ pain. Of starving them of empathy as they fill up on their daily snacks.

Beneath all compassion and kindness, is an ability to consider others as you do yourself – to imagine what it must feel like to walk in others’ shoes. How can we learn this except by trying on those shoes from time to time? However uncomfortable they may feel.

These three days won’t end world poverty, but I pray that in our household, they will end a kind of poverty of the soul. That as we go back to living our lives of relative comfort, we will better understand what we have been given, and the immense responsibility that comes with it.

Author’s note: We have a 9-month-old in the house who has flatly refused to embark on the LUTL challenge. She has claimed amnesty by virtue of having to already live under a pile of brothers.

– Julie Williams is a part-time freelance copywriter, mother of three and pastor’s wife. She serves on the Common Ground Church leadership team together with her husband, Terran. 

P.S. Considering doing the LUTL challenge with your family? Download The LUTL Family Guide for helpful tips and advice. We also recommend reading, “Learning to Live on Less”, for one mom’s feedback on  how the challenge impacted her family.

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