The ground war on global poverty. And what you can do about it.


Live Below the Line is aiming to raise money and awareness to end global poverty in line with the UN's millenium development goals.

BROOKLYN – More than 1.4 billion in the world live on less than $1.50 a day.

Across Africa, Asia, as close to home as Haiti and in so many remote corners of the world, there is a huge population – more than four times the population of the United States – living every day in extreme poverty.

Could you handle that? Could you live on as little as $1.50 for one day? Could you do it for five days?

It is a challenge put forward by an international campaign known as Live Below the Line, which invites individuals around the world to raise money – and awareness – for the issue by agreeing to live for five days below the global poverty line. The challenge starts May 7 and will continue through May 11. 

Last year the effort raised $2 million and this year you can take part by signing up through a U.S. partner organization.

Jacques-Philippe Piverger, founder and chairman of the Global Syndicate which is a non-profit organization serving as a partner with Live Below the Line, said, “This campaign is a movement to better understand just what life is like for the 1.4 billion people around the world who live in abject poverty. We all need to know that and try to understand in a very real way, if we are going to succeed in changing it.”

Piverger himself is taking on the challenge through Global Syndicate, which is also involved in other millennial goals such as alleviating energy poverty. More than 1.6 billion people are not connected to any power grid, which condemns them to darkness, and often ill health and missed opportunities. This fight against energy poverty is a cause Piverger is working on through an initiative called ‘Shine a Light.’

I met up with Piverger, 35, in Brooklyn this week. A former portfolio manager for one of the country’s largest financial service organizations, he’s now an entrepreneur for social change. He came of age in Miami and lives in Brooklyn, but traveled many summers to Haiti and has reconnected with his ancestral home in the aftermath of the earthquake. He began Global Syndicate in 2009 and since the earthquake has rededicatd himself to improving conditions for the millions left displaced and poor after the quake.

Piverger travels around with a piece of plastic in his breast pocket that collapses into the size of an eyeglass case. He pulls it out of his pocket, blows it up like a balloon and places it on the table.

And, then there is light.

The LED lights are provided for a contribution of $10 each and Piverger believes they could be a game changer in the goal to end energy poverty. The simple solar light would do more than just light up a tent in a camp in Haiti, it would also provide between $100 and $300 a year in savings on kerosene for the average family. In Haiti, like many poor countries, people living below the line often use kerosene to provide light. Toxic fumes from the kerosene cause respiratory problems in poorly ventilated shacks and tarpaulin tents and the lamps often cause fires that take tens of thousands of lives every year.

The overall efforts of Live Below the Line and Shine a Light are directed at getting individuals and entrepreneurs involved in the UN Millennium Development Goals, which have called for alleviating extreme poverty by 2015.

The goals were spelled in the UN General Assembly at the turn of the millennium by 160 world leaders who agreed on objectives to provide peace and security for a global society, and according to economist Jeffrey Sachs, they are within reach.

In a video on Live Below the Line website, Sachs explains, “Our generation for the first time in all of history can say that we can end extreme poverty. This has been a dream of humanity for as long as humans have been dreaming. But now in our time we can make these goals, not only our goals but our accomplishments.”