A dollar a day - the poverty challenge

Trip Start Sep 11, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A sizeable proportion of Indonesia's 225 million people live on less than $1 a day. 'Poverty and the Millennium Development Goals' is to be the theme of the annual VSO conference in March.

To help participants focus on and learn about poverty, four participants - including me and the director of VSO Indonesia - have been asked to live on US$1 a day for a week. That's about 55 pence in British money. We need to keep a journal noting practical difficulties and psychological effects, and we will then share our experiences with the conference.

The Rules

ˇ You have 10,000 Indonesian rupiah (Rp) to live on each day.
ˇ No food, toiletries, domestic supplies or stock already in the house may be used.
ˇ You are only allowed to use 3 hours of electricity a day.
ˇ We do not wish to compromise your ability do your work. So you must merely make a note in the journal of the implications of travel.
ˇ Only two pairs of trousers, shirts and underwear may be used over the whole week.
ˇ If you become sick during the week, then you must follow the usual VSO procedures.
ˇ During the week you must cook a meal for five people on your given budget.
ˇ One day you are ill, and need medicine. You cannot work, so there is no money today. How will you cope?
ˇ It is your best friend's birthday during the week, decide how you wish to manage this.

There is, however, a necessary caveat:

ˇ It is not our intention in any way to put participants at risk and therefore we ask you to balance your participation with acceptable levels of risk. Make decisions for yourself about what activities and utilities you are prepared to restrict in order to learn from the experience.

What this will mean for me

So... no fan (which usually follows me round the house), no water heater for drinks, and no using the fridge, so there goes the milk in my tea.

I work from home, so I do need to use electricity during the day (and my laptop, for example). I also need a light on outside overnight for security. But I decide not to watch any DVDs, which is a favourite way to pass the time.

I still need to go to the internet café for work emails, and as my friends mostly live several thousand miles away - rather than near my house, as they might if I was an Indonesian living in poverty - I decide that access to personal emails will be necessary too. I will keep a note of how much I spend, and the same is true for 'pulsa' (mobile phone credit), which I use a lot for work, and need for emergencies.

I'm not going to compromise on drinking water, though again, I will consider implications on my budget of drinking water during the week. My 'three hours of electricity' will cover the time in the evening when I would be home from work.

Clothes-wise, I decide to replace one pair of trousers with a sarong, as they're so useful. I don't use socks as much these days. No mention of shoes in the rules, but I'll go with my sandals, as they're good for rain and sunshine (some roads turn into small rivers quite quickly around here).

And I start on Tuesday. Wish me luck...
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