the wash-up of the $500 challenge…what I learned

So, within 12 days of starting the challenge to live on $500 for a month it was all over. I have learned a few things and will briefly list them here:
1) As soon as the “budget” was over, I went into spend mode. It felt like a switch in my head had been flipped from having to be so tightly controlled by the financial state, the budget was like a prison I had broken free of. Perhaps this is why we sometimes see those who are poor make terrible decisions about buying a huge new TV or other consumer good that just gets them in more financial difficulty? That overwhelming push to break from the prison is a nasty feeling.
2) Those who live with such narrow boundaries learn to be creative and clever with things. Necessity is the mother of invention and certainly I am amazed and impressed by how well some people manage on so little.

3) There is so much more we all can do towards reducing poverty. Globally, get involved with Kiva (www.kiva.org), TEAR (www.tear.org.au) and other good organizations working at the coalface of third world poverty.
4) In your local council area, lobby for: space set aside by the council where community members can grow their own food, get the council to supply good soil, mulch, tools, etc. City Farm in Perth have done a fantastic job of pioneering this idea (perthcityfarm.org.au). Provide a place for people to come and share ideas and work together, let them profit together (even if the “profit” means that they take home healthy veggies to eat).
5) Encourage local suppliers to provide “back to school” packs for school students. The basics may not be expensive, but for some the cost is beyond the budget. By having a pack that teachers or community workers can supply to families who need it, everyone has a better start.
6) Encourage libraries to become friendly places of learning by having tuition, crafts and other learning activities available. Volunteer to spend 2 hours a week helping a struggling child learn to read, write, add and multiply. By having activities, the library will be better used and the free books will become part of everyone’s lifestyle. Knowledge is power to change, let’s encourage people to access knowledge.
7) Ask your State government to provide vouchers for people to access “meals on wheels” without paying. This is especially important for the elderly, who often rely on such services but are required to pay. I understand it is a token amount, however that token is adding financial stress for many pensioners. Why can’t they be provided with vouchers (e.g. 20 per month) so that the cost of at least half their meals is covered?
8) Encourage local opticians to recycle frames and lenses by donating them to not only the poor overseas (many Australian businesses do this) but by using some frames for those who cannot afford new frames here. Let them pay for just the lenses.

There is so much we can do as a community… let us work together to do it… and please, add your suggestions.

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2 Comments on “the wash-up of the $500 challenge…what I learned”

  1. Julie Robinson Says:

    Valerie, I applaud you for this great blog. All of us can and need to do more to address poverty around us, starting in our own neighborhood, suburb, state and beyond… It can be as simple as inviting a lonely neighbour for a meal, or growing a few veggies and sharing the surplus. I love the idea of community gardens. I also like the idea of carpooling when people can do that.
    I am proud to be involved with a group of women who have banded together in our local area to provide support and assistance to other local women. I hope this blog becomes a place where people can share their ideas and actions. Great work Valerie. 🙂

    • angelvalerie Says:

      Thanks Julie. I think for me one of the key ideas is that education and knowledge empower people to get out of poverty. Stats around the world show this. Therefore, my suggestions are kind of centred around this idea. I have tried for a long time to get the idea of the tutoring up at my local church, unfortunately so far no support for it, but I think its a key to helping the community – education for the new generation.


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