Drawing the Line on Poverty

Challenge: JCU students are endeavouring to 'Live Below the Line.'

25 John Flynn College residents are fundraising to change the lives of thousands of young people living in extreme poverty.

By Gabrielle Vacher

James Cook University students fundraising for Oaktree’s Live Below the Line campaign have reached the final month of donations.

Along with thousands of Australian participants, 25 John Flynn College residents restricted themselves to eat only $2 worth of food a day between May 5th and May 9th to better understand and raise awareness for extreme poverty.

Although college students have little control over the meals prepared in the dining hall, Brenton Mayer and Rosie Mathews coordinated with the chefs to provide the 25 participants with five days of cheap nutrition.

“Brenton, myself and 28 others were keen to tackle the Live below the Line challenge in 2013, but we didn’t see how it would be feasible to prepare all of our meals on college with such a large group participating and such limited cooking facilities to share,” Rosie says.

“Our head chef Rob and the rest of the cooking staff were very supportive and helpful when we approached them about coordinating with us, and it was so successful last year that they were more than happy to take part take this year as well.”

Challenge: JCU students are endeavouring to 'Live Below the Line.'

Challenge: JCU students are endeavouring to ‘Live Below the Line.’

Rosie says the cooperation of the kitchen staff encouraged more students to participate.

“Knowing that the meals would be prepared for us definitely had a huge impact on the number of residents who decided to partake in the challenge,” she says.

“We students only had to organise the ingredients by pooling our money and then buying all of the food in bulk, which was split evenly between us.

“The cooks also asked us for meal ideas and the Live below the Line website provided some great recipes that we adapted, and even students from Flynn had some awesome ideas and improvements from last year.

“Most importantly, by collaborating with the kitchen staff we were able to raise so much more awareness on college as we were eating our meals at the same time and in the same place as everybody else – in the dining hall.

“We even had the chance to do some fundraising during lunch and dinner.”

Rosie believes it was the ‘simple things’ that made a difference during the five days of low-budget dieting.

“It was the cheap tea, cordial and jelly that provided something tastier to our otherwise bland menu – these were considered our ‘treats’ and the sugar hit definitely increased the moral of the group!”

“Apart from that we had ‘no brand’ bread, jam, and butter to share for the week, as well as some corn flakes for breakfast and rice, pasta and frozen vegetables for dinner,” Rosie says.

John Flynn College residents Sky Brunker and Emma Green struggled to find the energy for sport and physical activity throughout the five-day challenge.

“Receiving only carb-based foods for every meal affected me, as the change was so rapid and I was no longer receiving the essential vitamins and nutrients I needed,” Sky says.

“My immune system become quite vulnerable and I fell sick towards the end of the trial.

“The biggest problem was then how much the diet affected my ability to do physical activity – I would become instantly light-headed and if I continued I would become quite nauseous.”

“We really did eat so much white bread and rice!” says Emma.

“Overall it wasn’t as bad as I expected, particularly considering our college did it in a large group – it is easier having people to do it with you.

“I really missed fruit and vegetables though, and it was definitely a struggle to play sport.”

The Live below the Line movement is run by Oaktree, Australia’s largest youth-run organisation with over 150,000 members and funded almost entirely by public donations.

Since 2010 it has grown into a multi-million-dollar fundraising campaign that dedicates 90.1 per cent of all money raised to those living in poverty by providing scholarships, renovating schools and training teachers to offer quality education for thousands of young people in East Timor, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea.

Rosie, Sky and Emma agree that the campaign is one of the best ways to raise awareness for extreme poverty.

“It was a massive eye opener for me to consider how many people live on less than this for a lot longer than five days,” Sky says.

“It is an amazing cause that is changing so many lives for the better and I would definitely encourage more people to participate.”

“Even though living on $2 of food a day is clearly not in any way close to simulating the lives of people living in extreme poverty, it does release a strong message,” Rosie says.

“The World Bank estimates that extreme poverty may be eliminated by 2030, so if Oaktree can spread awareness and trigger some much needed action then this is certainly a worthwhile cause!”

Support the Oaktree Live below the Line campaign by making a donation to your fellow University peers at: https://www.livebelowtheline.com.au/ – donations close Friday 30th June.