CAFOD supporter and retired teacher Anna Bourke lives in Derby with her husband Simon. For the next week, they’ll be living on £1 a day, in solidarity with the world’s poorest people.
Tomorrow I start my £1-a-day challenge. I ask myself: why did I take this on?
I love going in to schools to talk about CAFOD. I look forward to receiving the Lent Fast resources for assemblies and workshops. It helps me find out about campaign actions and how CAFOD works to change lives for the better.
Last year, school communities got behind the Thirst for Change Campaign and we wrote messages on thousands of water droplets to send to the Prime Minister. Now the government has doubled its investment in water sanitation so that over 60 million more people can access safe water by 2015.
When I heard that this year CAFOD was urging supporters to get behind the Hungry for Change campaign, I was keen to get involved. The fact that 1 in 8 go to bed hungry when there is enough food for everyone presents us with a challenge to tackle this injustice. The joint campaign ‘Enough for everyone IF…’ calls for world leaders to take action on the root causes of the hunger crisis in the poorest countries.
It also invited supporters to consider taking on the £-a-day challenge. To try to eat for a week for £1 a day. I thought, why not give it a go? And Simon, my husband agreed to join me.
Living on £1 a day is a reality for many millions of people in the poorest parts of the world.
In 2006, I spent time in Northern Ethiopia working in Mekelle, in the Tigray region near the border with Eritrea. I taught English at the Abba Gebremichael Project for homeless children and young people, the most amazing bunch of creative, talented and highly motivated youngsters I have ever worked with.
A project worker from the Adigrat Diocese took me to see work in progress on the side of a steep hillside. They were creating terraces in the dry soil to halt soil erosion and create channels for collecting water during the rainy season, so barley and tef (a crop a little bit like millet) could grow. It was rainy season while I was there, and I could see the green shoots of new growth bringing hope of a better harvest. Where the hillside was unterraced, it was just bare earth being washed down the hillside by heavy downpours.
For six weeks, I lived in community with the Daughters of Charity in Mekelle. There I met Sister Medhin, who manages several CAFOD projects. She took me to visit their clinics and meet mothers who bring their vulnerable babies for health checks and nutritious food. And in Alitena, in the mountain region, I met young mothers, in labour, in danger of dying in childbirth due to hunger and exhaustion. They were receiving care in the CAFOD supported clinic.
Just before Christmas, I met Sister Medhin in Liverpool. She spoke at mass about the positive impact the projects are having in helping people gain skills to become more independent and take an active role in the local community. But I was devastated to hear that a devoted grandmother had died of hunger. She cared for her granddaughter who had been in my English class in 2006. I am a grandmother and want everyone to have a fair share of food.
For the last week we have been thinking about how we will tackle the challenge. We are going to walk to our local Co-op shop today and buy what we can for tomorrow, day one. And do the same each day. Any food supplies in the cupboards are out of bounds for the week. We’ve tried to use up the milk, fresh fruit and veg. Simon has made vegetable soup for lunch today.
We will deduct 4p a day for tap water. We can’t afford to buy tea bags or coffee or fruit juice or we won’t have money for food. So, this morning, we will savour our last cup of fresh, Fairtrade Ethiopian and hope we can manage without it for a week.
I’m wondering if we will be able to get small amounts of veg like one baking potato or two tomatoes. So much is bagged up in large amounts, and that will be beyond our daily budget. Will we be able to get a cheap loaf of bread that’s going out of date and maybe a small bag of pasta? I asked Simon if he wanted breakfast and an evening meal or three small meals. He thought we should try a few days of both. What will we do if people call in? My sister always comes for breakfast after Mass on Sunday and on Mondays our three year old grandson comes for the day. So, we have the responsibility of making sure he gets sufficient to eat. On Monday evenings, we go to my sister Veronica’s house for a delicious supper. We are still going next week but we are contributing £1 and is putting in £1 and will try to keep to that budget. She has offered to sell us some of the bread she makes to give us the chance to buy small rolls.
We will make use of produce we have grown but we only have a very small garden and a few small shallots, chilli peppers, and some fresh herbs. Our onions and cabbage are nowhere near ready.
Last weekend, we hosted a big family gathering . Our annual Christingle celebration became Springtingle – delayed to welcome a new arrival, our second grandson, born on 22 January. His mum cradled him and fed him in amongst the family mayhem. I was conscious of all the lovely food we had on the sharing table and thought about all the farmers round the world, many of them women, who had produced the goods and how they may not have enough to feed themselves. And I thought of Rose in Kenya whose baby Tabita nearly died of malnutrition, in a harsh drought, until she could be sustained by goat’s milk and unimix. One in four children are undernourished. This is a scandal we can end.