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TAFE NSW are Living Below the Line

It's not just about handing out food to the poor. This is about long term change in society through access to education. This is what I like the most about Live Below the Line.

It was the late Gough Whitlam who famously described poverty as a "national and human waste" and that "we are all diminished when any of us are denied a proper education". This was back in 1969 during his election pitch for equal access to education.

He wasn't alone in these observations. Throughout history, great minds ranging from Plato to Benjamin Franklin to Nelson Mandela have all championed education as the key to prosperity and the lack of it as the pathway to poverty.

The founders of Sydney Technical College (the original incarnation of TAFE NSW) were also fully aware of the importance of education for a society's prosperity. And so, too, is Oaktree.

Oaktree is an Australian-based NGO aimed with eliminating (or at least significantly reducing) extreme poverty in the world. While the organisation has many arms and does a lot of good work, it's probably best known for Live Below the Line (LBL). This is a campaign designed to raise both awareness of and funds for combatting extreme poverty. The idea is simple – sponsored participants have to subsist for five days on just two dollars a day.

Here at TAFE NSW, our Digital Media team will be taking up the challenge, to help contribute to better education in regions with extreme poverty.

For Brendon, it's his second time doing LBL. Brendon has a passion for social causes and loves the work that Oaktree is doing overseas.

[quote]It's not just about handing out food to the poor. This is about long term change in society through access to education. This is what I like the most about Live Below the Line.[/quote]

For Ruth, the challenge brings back memories of working with orphaned children in Cambodia. Her experiences set a foundation for wanting to be a part of a global community...wanting to make the world a better place for our most vulnerable.

[quote]The older I get, the more I realise that education is the only way we will see real change in impoverished communities.[/quote]

If you'd like to spare a few dollars to support Oaktree in their campaign to end extreme poverty, you can donate via this link: www.livebelowtheline.com.au/tafe-bites

DAY 2 & 3

(scroll up for Day 1)

There's not a lot to say really. Our meals consist of mostly oats for breakfast (well...not mostly. ONLY oats). 2 minute noodles or rice for lunch. And basically rice for dinner. Ruth has been adding peas in her rice along with chicken stock. Brendon has been saving his flavour sachets from his noodles to use in his rice, along with a small tin of tuna and 5 bean mix that's been portioned out over 5 days.

But what we have been reflecting on over the past couple of days is the limited choice you have when living on the poverty line. And we're only scratching the surface. We still enjoy our hot showers, clean clothes, public transport etc. But we are very proud of our efforts so far, meaning that we've almost raised enough money to buy 3 kids their books, school uniforms and class materials for the next 3 years. Outstanding!

DAY 4 & 5

(scroll up for Days 1, 2 and 3) When you get to the end of the Live Below the Line challenge, there's not really a lot to comment on. Each day is the same. Oats, quick and cheap noodles, then rice mixed with scant ingredients to attempt this thing call flavour. That's pretty much it.

But strip that away and we discover that there is quite a lot to comment on! Why are we doing this? Every day of the challenge we are reminded of just how fortunate we are, and more to the point, how much we take that for granted. We live in a world (Australia) where, even at the extreme ends of the scale, people still have the ability to go to public school. To earn a basic wage, and to have their basic needs met. Predominantly, food and shelter.

But when we switch this focus to Cambodia, Timor-Leste or PNG, extreme poverty finds a cycle that becomes generational. Why? Because a lack of access to basic education means that a child can never learn how to take a situation, improve upon that, and slowly make things better for themselves as they grow through life. Perhaps one of the best things we can do is to pinch a few words from the Live Below the Line website...

EDUCATION TRANSFORMS LIVES.

Here at TAFE NSW, we see so many lives being transformed. Every day. From career switchers to career starters, every student who passes through TAFE NSW is in some way chasing a dream of their own. To become something better. To make themselves the best they can be. To be happy in work and in life. This...this is really what it all comes down to. And it's a basic freedom that everyone on our earth deserves.

We're proud to have been a part of LBL this year. All up, it didn't harm us. We survived. We were always going to. But our journey without the luxuries we're accustomed to was a stark reminder of the realities that someone people in our world face on a daily basis.

The Oaktree Foundation managed to raise over $1.3 million dollars that will now go towards education programs in Cambodia, Timor-Leste and PNG. This is fantastic. And we can't wait to do it all again next year.

The fork didn't see a lot of action this week. But it was for a good cause