Growing up in a small town in Illinois, both my middle school and high school faced severe overcrowding. At twelve, my father dragged me -- braces, glasses, and a smile from ear to ear -- out to canvas our neighborhood, advocating for votes to a referendum that would build a new public school.
Although the referendum never passed and I spent my formative years in mobile classrooms on the front lawn of my high school, it was a great learning experience. And what I realized was this life-event was my first touch point with advocacy in perhaps its most traditional sense -- change through face-to-face conversations and grassroots efforts.
Today, my father continues his love for activism, signing nearly 20 online petitions a day and channeling his unbounded passion for making the world a better place into digital activism. All of the digital platforms that fill up pages of apps on our smart phones are opportunities to learn, network, and use your voice to support of the causes we feel passionately about. I have come to understand the incredible power that we hold in our digital community.
Each year at The Global Poverty Project, we run a campaign called Live Below the Line. We challenge people across the globe to eat and drink on just $1.50 a day for one to five days to deepen their understanding of the challenges faced by those living in extreme poverty. Participants also have the opportunity to learn about charities such as Concern Worldwide U.S., Heifer International, Opportunity International, The Hunger Project, MLB Players Trust and USA for UNHCR, and generate everyday conversations about issues that seem so far away to raise vital funds to support the end of extreme poverty.
Now in its fourth year in the U.S., Live Below the Line has become a powerful reminder of my original engagement with advocacy. I'm moved each year by the number of conversations about issues related to extreme poverty that it generates - with colleagues, friends, family and strangers. From shopping on a tight budget to eating rice and beans out of Tupperware in the most random locations. Every opportunity becomes an entry point to talk about extreme poverty and the importance of ending it.
Although I've participated in Live Below the Line the past three years, it wasn't until last year that I took advantage of my social networks to spread the word. I'd always sent an email to friends asking for their support. But last year, I flooded social media with messages about Live Below the Line. I thanked every donor publicly. I tweeted, posted, Instagramed, and was fortunate enough to raise hundreds of dollars for a charity close to my heart through the power social media. Another lesson from Dad: "if you're going to change the world, you have to get out there and do it."
And this year, we truly have that opportunity to change the world. In September, world leaders will announce their 15 year plan to end extreme poverty by 2030. We need to hold these leaders accountable, we need to have conversations and sign petitions, we need to support the charities working to give people the tools to lift themselves out of poverty. We must make our voices count for the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty.
Live Below the Line is one way, right now, that you can join this movement. Will you join us?