Heather L. Barmore
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Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices


    Could You Live Below the Line?

    In education we often speak of outside factors that can contribute  to or hinder a child’s ability to learn. For example a child who is unable to see the chalkboard but their parents cannot afford to bring that child to the eye doctor. So, the child sits in the class and suffers. Then there is the child who fears the walk to school because of whatever violence surrounding their neighborhood.  And then there is poverty. Poverty which is the root of the above. It’s poverty that causes a child to come to school hungry each day and yet that child is still expected to learn and perform. I’ve heard plenty of stories of children who hoard food come Thursday knowing that it will have to last until Monday morning. School is too often the one place for a child to receive proper nutrition.


    But poverty isn’t sexy. No one ever wants to talk about it. It's something that happens 'over there' not here. Unfortunately it happens everywhere. Hunger happens everywhere. 


    This is why I’ve teamed up with The Mission List and World Food Program USA to participate in the  Live Below the Line challenge. I bet I know what you’re thinking because I had the same thoughts starting with 'will this really do anything about the problem of poverty?' No. My eating on $1.50 a day will not eradicate poverty but the idea is that if  those of us fortunate enough not to live below the poverty line chipped in just a little then a dent can be made. Attention will be brought to the problem. That attention will (hopefully) get people talking and we - as a global society - can continue to make those dents until children don't have to go to school hungry. 


    That last part is my goal. It seems so basic to not have children starving while attempting to learn and yet very little is ever done about it. Budgets are cut, the funding for services aren’t there and I’m not even talking on a global level, I’m talking about kids 150 miles east of my current location in Upstate NY who are starving. I’m doing this because I want to bring attention to this problem and if it means living on yogurt and ramen all week then I’m up for the challenge.



    What I've been eating


    Why $1.50 per day:


    The challenge is set at $1.50 a day, because this is the current equivalent of the accepted global figure used to define extreme poverty. This was set by the World bank as US$1.25 per day in 2005. Basically, if you live on less than that every day, you’re recognized internationally as living in extreme poverty. Want the full detail? Check it out below.



    "It's not that bad," you might say - "$1.50 goes a lot further in developing countries". Unfortunately not. The $1.50 figure represents the amount someone living in extreme poverty in the U.S. would have to live on.


    And for people who live in extreme poverty that $1.50 has to cover far more than food and drink - we're talking everything - health, housing, transport, food, education... It's impossible to imagine, but that’s the reality for an incredible number of people.


    Gandhi said that "Poverty is the worst form of violence" - and we agree. We all feel and see the injustice of extreme poverty, whether it be directly in our neighborhoods or in countries far away, Live Below the Line is here to provide a platform that helps you do something about it.

    Check out how the calculation works in detail on our blog.


    The challenge?


    Spend 5 days feeding yourself with $1.50 a day - the U.S. equivalent of the extreme poverty line.


    The reason?


    To give a glimpse into the lives of 1.4 billion people who have no choice but to live below the line every day – and who have to make $1.50 cover a lot more than food…

    Live Below the Line is an initiative of the Global Poverty Project, an education and campaigning organization whose mission is to increase the number and effectiveness of people taking action against extreme poverty.

    The Global Poverty Project educates and motivates citizens to become effectively engaged in the movement to end extreme poverty, and is best known for its world-class multimedia presentation 1.4 Billion Reasons. This feature presentation has been seen by over 100,000 people since 2009 and is delivered in schools, businesses and communities around the globe.

    We're passionate about equipping people to make a real difference in fighting poverty, and so we focus on connecting people up to the organizations and issues that have the biggest impact. We run Live Below the Line because we think that to really fight poverty, we've got to try to understand it – and the challenge provides a glimpse of what it is like to live on $1.50/day – a challenge that is faced by 1.4 billion people in our world today.

    We've teamed up with some of the best U.S. charities that fight extreme poverty around the world and have provided you with the opportunity to support their work through personal sponsorship as you undertake Live Below the Line.

    In 2013, Live Below the Line is running in the U.S., UK, and Australia simultaneously, with more than 20,000 people spending 5 days living below the line.To give a glimpse into the lives of 1.4 billion people who have no choice but to live below the line every day – and who have to make $1.50 cover a lot more than food...


    Let’s be honest I’m not experiencing true poverty. This morning when I thought I screwed up making rice I knew that I had pasta to fall back on. I have a car and new shoes to break in and a trip to California later this week. The irony of doing this challenge and preparing for a stay at the Ritz Carlton is not lost on me. It might seem like an insult to those who are living in poverty day to day for whom there is no luxury. For them this isn't a challenge that will end on Friday when they can gorge on overpriced sushi and a bottle of prosecco. I'm somewhat ashamed and yet it forces me to find out what more can be done. Does that make sense?  Even in the past 36 hours I have felt more aware of my great fortune and of my choices when it comes to food and what I am willing to commit to just so I can do my part.


    So, will you join me? Will you see what this is about? And if you’re so inclined you can even donate. No pressure. Just be aware and bring attention. Can you do that?


    And this is why Sheryl Sandberg is a smart lady

    Photo: Vogue.com"But it’s possible that in amassing circles of women and giving them simple empowering tools, she’s putting the infrastructure and players in place for a much more ambitious trophy than a seat in the corporate boardroom. Getting women to the highest echelons of business might be her idea of getting them to the starting line. After the women get the power, well, then she can really let loose." - Time Magazine, "Confidence Woman" by Belinda Luscombe

    My first problem - of many - is that before I had a chance to so much as Google Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”, I had already made up my mind about the whole thing. I heaped my complaint onto that of a colleague along with a sigh and an eyeroll. I am sick of hearing about Sheryl Sandberg. It’s fantastic that she gets to leave work at 5:30 PM each day to enjoy time with her family. Absolutely wonderful that she is the COO of Facebook and that she’s turned the social media conglomerate into what it is today.

    Many claps for her.

    So when I saw that once again she was being mentioned my gut reaction was to dismiss her after saying a few words about how great it is for her to have that choice that millions of other women do not have. How difficult it must be for her to discuss how women should and could get ahead from a place of supreme privilege. And don’t get me started on why there never seem to be any women of color - and we have our own workplace issues and obstacles to deal with - in the picture. It seems like the same story time after time of the white lady telling the rest of us how it is really done. And, for real, I am over it.

    And then I Googled. I read the piece in Time. I went to the site. I changed my mind.

    Not entirely, of course, but my defenses went down and I was able to operate from a place of thoughtfulness and intelligence as opposed to annoyance bordering on anger.

    I grew up in a single parent household. My mother worked until well after six each night. Sometimes she made dinner, sometimes dinner was Burger King. If we were sick we had to stay in the nurses office until she was available usually not until after four. I remember in middle school she had a herniated disc that required her to be home for six weeks. For six whole weeks I had my mother at home after school and that was all that mattered. It was glorious. She traveled a lot. Sometimes we joined her in Manhattan or Orlando. Other times we were left home. She worked hard to provide for us: I ended up taking expensive AP courses my sophomore, junior and senior years of high school and then went to an expensive university in Washington, DC and then went abroad for six months. My brother went through college, law school and a year of watching Cash Cab on the couch while awaiting bar exam results. The point is that my mother wasn’t able to make the choices that Ms. Sandberg and other’s like her can make. She had to work because she had to support her children. She had to work so that one day her children would have options.

    I have many options. I am a fortunate woman. I know that.

    And despite my criticism towards the likes of upper middle class women who attempt to tell other women how to ‘do it all’, I must acknowledge the fashion in which Sheryl Sandberg is moving forward. And the movement she is attempting with LeanIn.org. As you know, I am a big proponent of women helping other women. I want to see women succeed. I want to see women be CEOs and be president of the United States. I want more women members of the House and of the Senate and I want for us to feel empowered not only to ‘lean in’ but to lean on one another. That is where Sandberg has it right; women need other women and our attitude towards ourselves and our positions force us to stay back. What Sheryl Sandberg advocates is to come together and learn from one another. The only way for women to get to the top is to do so together and, more importantly, to recognize the choices of others when doing so.

    So, I can’t hate on her. I can’t even bring myself to sigh or roll my eyes. I can applaud her mission and suggest that she reminds others how fortunate so many women are and that we all are not equal but that is OK. But I can’t put her down or be angry or jealous. I can and am envious of her resources to start to get people to work together and share experiences. In fact- and here’s the surprise after my huffing and puffing this morning- Sheryl Sandberg makes me want to do the same.


    Coming back from the blogging dead

    1. I've been busy. Stop yelling at me. I feel bad enough about my absense already.

    2. To make you feel better here's a video of Michelle Obama dancing. You're welcome.

    3. Next week? I'm gonna get my sequester on. Yay!

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