Inspired by the presentation by the CEO of the Global Poverty Project on campus in September, the president of WCU’s Student Government Association and the wife of Chancellor David O. Belcher are participating in the Live Below the Line Campaign beginning Monday, Oct. 24.
To help raise awareness of global poverty, student TJ Eaves and Susan Brummell Belcher will live off of $1.50 per day for five days. Hugh Evans, whose presentation about extreme poverty worldwide twice filled the Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center to capacity, asked audience members to consider taking part in the Live Below the Line campaign to raise awareness about extreme poverty. Evans was on campus as part of the WCU Poverty Project, a yearlong, campuswide, engaged learning initiative. Live Below the Line is an awareness initiative of the Global Poverty Project, which projects that 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty and exist on less than $1.25 a day.
Belcher and Eaves acknowledge the challenges ahead. “It will be a pretty interesting week because I am a fairly picky eater,” Eaves said. Belcher said she’d have to explore whether coffee with cream will fit in her budget. “If not, I’ll struggle with that one,” she said. Nevertheless, they both look forward to the challenge. “Initially, I was concerned that this would be too tough and thought about whether or not I should do it,” Eaves said. “But I thought to myself, with 1.4 billion people living off less than $1.50 a day, every day, there is no big deal in me living off of $1.50 per day for only five days. I know it will be tough, and I will be hungrier than normal, but that’s why it will be so beneficial personally.” Eaves admits that only five days in the extreme poverty zone won’t equate to an in-depth understanding of what it is to live in poverty. “I just hope to walk away with a greater respect and awareness for those who do,” he said.
While Belcher and Eaves have initiated the project primarily to raise awareness, Belcher also has a goal to raise $1,000 for CARE, a humanitarian organization fighting poverty in more than 70 countries around the world that specifically focuses on empowering women so they can contribute to their communities. She and Eaves both invite anyone interested to sponsor them or join them on the Western Carolina University Live Below the Line team themselves. Those who choose to participate with them also are asked to post a note about their participation and their experience on the WCU Poverty Project Facebook page.
The Live Below the Line campaign allows for combining the five-day allowance for the purpose of food shopping before participation begins. It doesn’t allow for “donations” from friends and family. A sample shopping list includes oatmeal, soup, powdered milk, potatoes, pasta, rice, yogurt, tuna, eggs, vegetables and inexpensive cookies. The CARE website has a sample eating plan at http://www.care.org/getinvolved/advocacy/dayofaction/images/Sample-Live-Below-the-Line-Menu.pdf.
For students who want to participate in the campaign, Aramark will host a station in the upper level of the Courtyard Dining Hall with foods and portions that comply with the Live Below the Line initiative for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Thursday, Oct. 27.
The Eaves-Belcher commitment is primarily to raise awareness about extreme poverty. The hope after Evans’ presentation was that individuals “would take up Hugh’s challenge themselves without any further ‘push,’ so we have stood aside and waited for this to happen organically,” said John Whitmire, co-chair of the WCU Poverty Project steering committee and a faculty member in the Philosophy and Religion Department.
Jennifer Cooper, interim director of the Center for Service Learning and the other Poverty Project co-chair, said the effort is a great complement to the Oxfam Hunger Banquet planned for 6 p.m. Nov. 14 in the Blue Ridge Multipurpose Room. For that event, participants randomly draw tickets that assign them to different income levels based on statistics about the number of people living in poverty. Depending on what they draw, participants will eat anything from rice and water to a filling dinner, with the intent being that participants gain perspective on the root causes of hunger and poverty. “It makes so much sense to link the Live Below the Line campaign to the Oxfam Hunger Banquet,” Cooper said. Just as with the Live Below the Line effort, the idea with the hunger banquet is for “participants to reflect on the realities of hunger in the world,” she said.
In another initiative, Aramark directs proceeds from the purchase of Project 7 items in Java City to global initiatives, including feeding the hungry.
The WCU Poverty Project is sponsoring many different poverty-related teaching, learning, service, and scholarly and creative activities over the course of the year. For more information and a schedule of events, visit the WCU Poverty Project website. Those interested in supporting CARE during WCU’s Live Below the Line Campaign can sponsor Team Western Carolina University, Susan B. Belcher, T.J. Eaves and others who sign up to participate by clicking “Join Team” on the Team Western Carolina University site.
By Jill Ingram