For many of us, money is tight. We sometimes wonder how we're going to pay all our bills in the same month or how many coupons it'll take to trim down our grocery bill. But can you imagine living on less than $2 a day?
That's exactly what he Global Poverty Project asks people to do as part of its annual Live Below the Line challenge, aimed at sparking dialogue about extreme poverty. Among those up for the challenge: actress AnnaLynne McCord.
For five days, from April 28 to May 2, McCord relied on a scant $1.50 a day to buy food and drink for one. The ordeal, she says, resonated with her for myriad reasons.
"It reminded me of living on my own in New York City at 15, eating ramen noodles or boxed macaroni and cheese," she told us. "Also, extending further back, it reminded me of my childhood growing up in a trailer park — and my family proving that American poverty exists, but that our life was still livable, as we could stretch the dollars with the help of food stamps, unlike victims of extreme poverty I've witnessed in third-world countries."
Participation in the challenge was impressive, with nearly 3,000 people in the U.S. and more than 20,000 people globally joining the cause and raising over $325,000 in the United States and over $2.3 million globally for the world's poor. As great as those numbers are, though, they pale in comparison to 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty, a fact McCord is all too familiar with.
She explained, "As human rights activism is something for which I am very passionate, these numbers sadly don't astound me. But what encourages me is to see the awareness that comes from wonderful programs like Live Below the Line. This form of education is the first step towards causing real change."
And real change is exactly what the Live Below the Line challenge hopes to inspire, with the ultimate aim of ending extreme poverty by 2030. It is a feat McCord believes can be done, but "it is extremely important that education continues on a revolutionary scale," she asserted. "To quote my close friend and co-founder of the New Orleans-based organization for victims of Katrina, St. Bernard Project, Zack Rosenberg, 'It's not that people don't care, it's that people don't know.'"
McCord thinks the greatest knowledge that can be imparted in the name of ending extreme poverty is that of the human-interest story. "First and foremost, we need people to know the stories," she elaborated. "Not merely the statistics, but the true-life stories. Educate in an emotion-evoking way to inspire true long-term support."
When it comes to making a difference, the impassioned actress isn't afraid to piss off a few people if it means moving the cause forward.
"I believe it's important to — like the TIP (Trafficking in Persons) Report — expose, embarrass and humiliate the governments who are extorting from or not properly supporting their people," McCord said. "The countries with massive gaps between the wealthy and the impoverished with no true middle class are often overseen by governments who are not doing their share to help the people suffering within their nation."
The daughter of a pastor from Atlanta, Georgia, McCord gives her father much credit for influencing the person she has become. "I believe my father, as a person, shaped in a lot of ways my desire to do good for others," she told us. "Religion aside, my dad just loves people. He is very passionate about his beliefs, and he truly does what he does because he takes to heart the quote 'as you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.'"
He is a man who leads by example, McCord explains, and whose kindness she has "sought to emulate throughout my life."
Outside of the many charities McCord works with, the philanthropic star frequently collaborates with the Somaly Mam Foundation, a nonprofit that works to eradicate the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls in Southeast Asia. As such, she has strong opinions about the current state of affairs in Nigeria.
"I want to go hunt down those men and #BringBackOurGirls myself," she said. "I also think it's important to point out the harm to which religion can sometimes give license. Dogmatism about any single belief can be widely detrimental, and I speak from personal experience. There is a rampant issue I've noticed in many religions where the actual text demeans, degrades and supports the abuse and enslavement of women."
It was a "hard pill" for the daughter of a pastor to swallow. McCord realized early in life that people shy away from the subject of religion — but she no longer does. "I don't mind hurting some feelings if we save some lives in the process," she asserted. "Any religion which deems women or children or differing races or sexual orientation as somehow less than human in the name of a God should be globally denounced, in my opinion. When this happens, a lot will change for the betterment of humans as a race. And, I think 'God' will respond, 'Finally! Stop making me look bad.'"
Whether she's living on $1.50 a day or helping to fight human trafficking, McCord abides by a simple mantra — a quote from Gandhi, which is inscribed in Japanese script on a piece of teak wood in her meditation room: "Be the change you want to see in the world."
Learn more about Live Below the Line up here, or follow them on Twitter @LBLUS with #BelowtheLine. To keep up with AnnaLynne, who has a "massive tell-all" slated for Cosmopolitan's July issue, check out her blog here.
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