This week a few hundred members of a Cape Town church accepted a challenge to live for three days like 13 million South Africans live every day — under the international poverty breadline of less than R10 a day.
Common Ground Church members were asked to spend no more that R10 per day on food and refreshments from 6am on Monday, July 23 until midnight on Wednesday, July 25.
According to the organisers, the challenge was launched to help church members “freshly notice the injustices in our city by identifying with people living in poverty” and to “compel us to pray and seek God for His will in how we should respond”.
One of the challenge participants, Richard Bolland, had this to say: “Living under the line is more than just a challenge. It challenges the way we live, where we live and most importantly what we live for. Often I found myself getting back from a hard days work in the film industry, relaxing on my 6-seater couch – paid for with my hard earned money – and enjoying some of Woolworth’s finest. There’s me on the couch flicking on the news. Watching how a group of shacks has burned down. Watching how our education system is getting caught up in corruption. The murder figures for the Western Cape come on the screen. As my heart hardens I change the channel onto Supersport Blitz. Something’s not right. How have I become so numb to this? What do I have to do? The problem is too big. How could I possibly make a change? Something tells me that changing my Facebook status isn’t going to change much. Maybe I should do this “Live Under the Line Challenge”? Why not cook a meal for the guys living in the train subway, I think to myself. Maybe assist some of them into a shelter? What about finding out if there’s a place they can finish their matric? It seems like it’s going to be difficult. Maybe I should just watch a movie.
“Doing the challenge and going to the Haven Night shelter every week gives us middle-class, suburban-bound volunteers an insight into how 13 million people live in South Africa every day. It shows us how an 18-year-old rainbow nation still holds such struggles and pains. We go there every week not out of guilt but rather out of hope. Hope that there is a chance we can make a difference. We have seen people come off the streets. Complete a rehab. Find a job. Work their way from a first phase shelter into a second phase shelter. Relapse. Redo rehab. Go back to school. Buy a home. We’ve seen all of this in the last 2 years we’ve been going there. I’m glad I didn’t watch that movie.”
More testimonies about the challenge can be found on the LUTL facebook page and Living Social Justice blog page. Clearly it challenged participants on many levels and has raised searching questions about “where to next?”.