Living Below the Line - Day 5

Today it's mum's turn ...

The final day!

Last night Bethan and I went to the supermarket with our final £1.33. We needed bread – for breakfast and for lunch. The cheapest we could find was 47p. That left us with 86p!! We went backwards and forwards down the aisles looking for something which we could share between all 4 of us and found the biscuits! We managed to get 2 packets – a cheap plain pack of digestives and a more exciting packet of crunch creams that were on offer. We weren’t sure which to get and in the end bought them both with 2p to spare! We were so excited that we had some ‘snacks’ for that evening and the following day! We did go to the fruit and vegetable section, but we couldn’t afford anything with our money!

That is what I have found difficult all week – the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables and the lack of choice. It was all too expensive – no onions or mushrooms to fry up with the pasta, no vegetables to have with the very fatty cheap sausages. The only fruit we managed was a cheap bag of apples which were pretty tasteless. There is no way you can have a healthy and nutritious diet on £1 a day!

We are all looking forward to tomorrow not necessarily to be able to stuff our faces with whatever we want but so we can have some salad, some nice fruit, a bowl of cereal with milk or a glass of fruit juice rather than water! (I was allowed mint tea bags so I can’t complain too much about the water!)

We are so fortunate to be able to buy fresh produce and have it on a daily basis. I know from now on I will think more carefully about what I am spending and what I am buying and be very mindful of those who have so little choice in what they buy and eat! We had some choice yesterday – and chose the unhealthy option because of the high cost of the healthy option!

If you want to get involved in the Live Below the Line project, go to www.livebelowtheline.com

As well as raising awareness, we're also trying to raise some money. If you feel able to give, then please go to www.livebelowtheline.com/me/youthpresident - it's appreciated by so many. Thank you.

Live Below the Line - Day 4

Today, Bethan talks about how she's found it...

It's been an interesting week. I thought it was going to be awful, but it actually hasn't been that bad!

It's actually surprising how much you can buy with £20 for the week - me & Mum just bought 2 packs of biscuits with the last of the money, and that's a lot of biscuits if you've been living on £1 a day!

I think the most difficult thing has been all the temptations - like my friends going out to buy lunch from Greggs, and coming back with sausage rolls and cakes.

But it has been good, it's amazing how little people actually have to live on - I don't think I'd ever thought about it that much before.

It has been a really good experience and I recommend it!

If you want to get involved in the Live Below the Line project, go to www.livebelowtheline.com

As well as raising awareness, we're also trying to raise some money. If you feel able to give, then please go to www.livebelowtheline.com/me/youthpresident - it's appreciated by so many. Thank you.

Living Below the Line - Day 3

Today's contribution from my Dad...

My body seems to be getting used to this new diet and the initial reaction to a lack of caffeine (no tea or coffee this week!) and overloading on carbs (bread and potatoes) seems to have worn off! I’m often hungry but I don’t think that’s because I’m not getting enough food but more because I’m used to eating more that I really need!

However, this week has made me far more aware of food, not only the smells coming from cafes and restaurants (and other people’s lunches!) but also the cost ... when you have £1 a day to spend it really focuses the mind! I have also seen a wonderful generosity in others who have wanted to give us food and drink and, although we decided to say no because we wanted to experience this challenge for ourselves, it has been quite humbling.


One of the challenges of this week has been the choices we have been forced to make ... one was not to drink tea or coffee because this would take up too much of the budget. Today it is what do we do with our remaining £1.33?

We need some more bread (we have eaten more bread in the last three days that we have in the last month!) but what do we do with the rest? Our choice is apples (the only fruit we are eating) or chocolate biscuits (our one treat) ... insignificant in many ways but for us (sadly) quite challenging!

So where do we go from here? Only two days to go and then we can go back to our normal diet ... is that the right response to this challenge? A tweet in the Metro yesterday said it’s ok for the middle class to live this way for a week but for many people this is how we live our lives ... I found that really challenging. Is this just another thing to tick off on the list of ‘things we have done’ or will it make us different people?

I’m not sure what the answer will be because the challenges it raises are much bigger than the four of us living on £1 a day ... in one way they are about poverty, fairness, wealth, consumerism, greed, etc. and in another they are about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ in 2012, who is far less concerned about the patterns and structure of the church and more about being a disciple.



Live Below the Line - Day 2

I'm pretty much hungry all the time, not being able to snack and having pretty small portion sizes means I am definitely hungry ALL THE TIME!

It's been pretty tough today, surrounded by food in the office! But I think that's actually made me think about what I'm doing, and why I'm doing it.

If you know me, you'll know that I'm quite a grumpy person - I quite easily find things to moan about! In the grand scheme of things, I really don't have anythign to moan about! I'm so lucky, I have more than enough to survive on, I have a great job, a great family. There are so many people both here, and across the world, that aren't any where near as lucky. The experience so far, has been a real challenge to appreciate what I have.

There are 1.4 billion people in the UK and around the world, that live like this all the time - they have £1 a day every day of their life. To donate to help support these people, please go to www.livebelowtheline.com/me/youthpresident. Thank you :)

Living Below the Line - Day 1

So today was the first day of our Live Below the Line challenge! Me and my wonderful family are living for £1 per day, each, for 5 days. To try and raise money and to raise awareness of the 1.4 billion people across the globe who live below the poverty line.

Yesterday was the major shopping trip, my parents were trusted with the £20 and, for once, they did pretty well! Most meals catered for and a pack of digestives! How exciting!!

They both said it was a completely different shopping experience to the one their used to - and really made them think about how for some, this is what they have to do every week; not a decision on quality, but on what they can afford.

So breakfast today was two slices of toast, lunch a sandwich some rationed out crisps and one digestive biscuit, then dinner some not so bad sweet & sour sauce with chicken and cous cous!

I think we've done pretty well, but I wouldn't say I've found it easy.

Normally, I'd just go to the fridge when I was feeling hungry, or I'd pop out and buy a pack of sweets, or a cup of coffee. But, that just isn't an option. Our drinks in Costa on Sunday after church, ost half of our whole budget for the 5 days! We would just spend that without thinking, but having to do this challenge has really made us think about it.

What made today even more difficult was being surrounded by tea, coffee & cake at today's coffee morning. I'd have probably eaten a decent sized plateful normally - but today that wasn't an option!

I can't wait to see how the rest of the week pans out, and how the rest of my family cope!!

We would all so appreciate it, if you felt able to donate. As I said before, 1.4 billion people around the world live below the poverty line - whatever you can give would really help. Thanks!

https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/youthpresident

Ghana

Day 1

So today brought my first long haul flight, my first foray into Africa, and a whole load of other brand new experiences – which brought on a whole range of emotions.

We arrived in Accra about half an hour late, and as soon as we got off the plane there was a blast of humidity! How can it be 28° at 10 o’clock in the evening?!

I couldn’t stop staring out the window as we drove through Accra – so much going on, and so many contrasting images to try and take in.

We arrived at the guest house a while later, had a bite to eat, and settled down for the night. The overriding feeling was one of nervousness as I looked ahead to the days to come – I have no idea what to expect!

Day 2

The heat, plus lack of agreement between myself and the food from last night led to not much sleep at all. On the plus side, at least it meant I was up on time!

7am for devotions, an hour later we left the guest house headed for the Conference Office o the Methodist Church Ghana. We met with the Administrative Bishop (equivalent to our General Secretary), amongst others, sharing with each other about what we are doing, as well as presenting them with two new computers for their office, plus some money donated by Methodists in the UK.

We then drove out to the Methodist Rakiki Satellite Village, where about 60 orphans live. We met the director, two Americans who have been working there for around a year setting up a
sponsorship programme (www.rafikifoundation.org), as well as the orphans living there. This is fantastic work, exactly what the church should be doing in society – if it wasn’t for the church doing this work then all of these 60 children would not have stood a chance. We presented them
with food and some cash donations from Methodist from the London District.

Another long coach journey took us to Cape Coast, the site of the first Methodist Church established in Ghana. We ate in the church hall, before sharing in worship in Wesley’s Cathedral. It was a really enriching night, seeing some many young people fired up for God is always a fantastic sight.

They were so welcoming, and so pleased to see us; it was great to share in worship with that community of young people.

We’re staying in the University Guest House this evening, hoping
for a better night’s sleep and another exciting day tomorrow!

Day 3

What an incredibly packed day. Again, we left early in time for breakfast back at the church hall, we popped into the school on the way. A class of 6-9 year olds were introduced to us, and sang for us. They all looked so happy to be there, and so pleased to see us. One of the things I’ve been
completely amazed by, is how appreciative everyone is of us being there, and how welcoming everyone is!

After breakfast, we headed to Cape Coast Castle, turned from a fort into a castle by the British a few hundred years ago. It was a place used to hold slaves for the three months before they were shipped off to Europe, the Americas & the Caribbean.

We were shown the chambers that the slaves were held in, the tunnel the slaves had to walk through to the door of no return, where they would finally be shipped off to their final destination. I was completely shocked that the was once a church built on top of one of the chambers –while people were praising God upstairs, people were living knee-deep in their mess
below. It’s shocking to think that humanity once behaved this way.

After lunch, we moved from the Cape Coast Diocese, to the Sekondi Diocese. We ate in the hotel before heading out to church. Again, we were made to feel incredibly welcome, and saw so many people worshipping so passionately, and with massive smiles on their faces.

It’s such a privilege to be here, and to be sharing in these experiences. I feel so blessed that God has brought me here.

Day 4

Well today, more than anything, has made me appreciate the unbelievable blessings God has given to me throughout my life.

We visited the Nzulezu village, about a 2 and a half hour drive from out hotel in Takoradi. The Nzulezu village is a village on stilts, one of the most remote places I have ever been to. Because of the mud, the coach could only take us so far. We crammed into the boot of the pick up, then had to walk across a long bridge, then walked through the shallow part of the lake to a
boat that took about 15 minutes to the village itself.

We arrived to a small boy running around, waving at us, excited to see us all (bear in mind, the village is made of pretty shaky wooden planks, with a fair gap in between each one – the children had no fear!). As we walked through, I was amazed at how these people live; so cut off from everywhere, but so contented. The man who owned the bar in the village, said he’d been to
London, but couldn’t wait to get back to Nzulezu. This is their home, it’s part of their identity and it’s where they love to live.

A group of ministers had donated some money to build a new Methodist Church in the village. It will be a great space for the village to use, it will be used for some school lessons as well as church activities. At present, there is no clinic on the island – women giving birth, people who are ill, have a long and hard journey before they are anywhere near help, so there has also
been some money given to help set up a clinic in the village.

It was by far the best day so far, I was so touched with how these people live, and it really puts into perspectives what I would class as struggles in life!

Another early start to come tomorrow, a long drive ahead to Kumasi and another new diocese to visit!

Day 5

Having filled up with my Immodium tablets, I was ready to start the day (even though they were the Boots own version :D)!

En route to Kumasi, we stopped off at the Sekondi Diocese Youth & Student Assembly, a gathering that happens every two years, and we were lucky enough to be a part of the official opening. We witnessed the Boys & Girls parades, and then inspected them all. We then were introduced to the group, and a few of us addressed everyone.

After that, it was off to Kumasi – a massive journey. We left the school around half 10, and eventually checked into the hotel about 6. There was not enough room for us in the hotel in the centre of Kumasi, so for some of us the journey was extended even further to find the other hotel.

Once we arrived there, they hadn’t prepared the rooms for us, so then it was on the coach again
to a third hotel, where we were finally able to check in! All a bit of a drama, but I guess that’s Ghana for you!

We eventually reached the Youth Service we had come to attend in a Methodist Church in Kumasi. As with the other nights, what a pleasure it is to share in worship with such committed and passionate young people.

Day 6

We managed to persuade the powers that be to give us all a lie in this morning, so breakfast wasn’t till 8! We were shipped off for breakfast at the hotel where the others were staying, then went off to the Mahayen Palace Museum for a tour.

It was a beautiful building, where the King of the Asante people lives. It was built by the British to give to the Asante people, in return for sending their King into exile. The Asantes refused this offer, and didn’t move in until they had raised enough money to buy the palace themselves.

We returned to the hotel for lunch, then around 2.15 we left to head back to Accra. 7 hours later, just after 9pm we arrived back at the hotel in Accra. Sat on the seat with the least amount of leg room, with about an hour and a half of the journey on roads with no tarmac, it was not fun! I will never ever moan about a pothole in the UK again!

Day 7

Our last full day in Ghana; we left the hotel at just before 7.30am for the morning service at Good Shepherd Methodist Chuch in Accra. After the service, we all crammed into the vestry for tea, coffee and biscuits (just like being at home!), then off we went to the Diocesan Office, to meet with the Diocese Youth Organiser, and all of the Circuit Youth Organisers. It was really
good to meet with them all, and for them to show us a bit of the work they are doing.

In the afternoon, we attempted the beach, then went to William’s in-laws for lunch, then attempted the beach. I touwl have been beautiful to sit on the sand for a few hours, unfortunately the car park was full so we headed for the slightly cooler Accra mall. It was nice to have an hour relaxing on the last day, to reflect a bit on what has been an amazing trip!

Day 8

Almost all the people from the UK left this morning, only Lia, Edward & I remain, as well as the two people from the Ghanaian Methodist Church in Hamburg. This morning, Edward (London District Youth Development Officer) met with the DYO of the Accra Diocese. It was an interesting meeting, and hopefully the partnership will continue to be built.

A brief stop of at the craft market, and I’m now sat at the airport. Check-in doesn’t open for another hour (clearly they wanted rid of Lia & I!!), so I’m sat writing this in a cafe, while Lia is snoring in the chair across the table!

It really has been an amazing trip. The places we’ve been to will remain with me forever, and even the sights we’ve seen out of the coach window will remain with me too.

I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank all those who organised the trip, Revd William Davis, Theresa, Marcia and the rest, all those who were on it and made it a fantastic experience, and also the Methodist Church Ghana. It’s so exciting to see the church here growing, doing fantastic work, and who are really open to letting God do His work.

I hope and pray that the partnership with the Methodist Church Ghana continues to grow, we have so much to learn from each other. This is a trip I will remember forever!

Where is God...oh...there He is!!

Wow...I haven’t been on here in a while!

It’s been the most manic few weeks! A few days away in Swanage, a visit to Number 10, winning an award(!), Council, Reference Group...the list goes on!

For some reason, I’ve been really struggling with my faith over the past few weeks. It seems really strange saying that, after listing all those incredible things that God is doing in my life, not to mention the week in Ghana coming up next!!

So, I’ve been challenging myself to see God in everything...and, unsurprisingly, that wasn’t difficult at all!

Walking along the coast in Swanage, feeling privileged to represent the church at Downing Street, winning the BYC award are all things that I’m so thankful for.

But it’s not only those outstanding things that I’m seeing God in again...taking cell groups out for pizza and having such a laugh with them, spending time with my family, the blossom I can see ou the window as I write this blog...

God is everywhere, as far away as He might feel sometimes, He never ever is.

At the start of the book of Jeremiah, God condemns Israel for not recognising that God is there and working in and around them.

How often are we guilt of doing exactly that?

I challenge you, to try and see God in everything around you, and in everything you do.

I mentioned my trip to Ghana next week. Wi-fi permitting I’ll be tweeting and blogging every day. If not, then I’ll be posting when I get back. Your prayers for the whole group and myself as we travel and experience a wonderful culture would be greatly received.