Wednesday, 21 May 2014

10 down ... 8 more to go!

By Noelene Scerri

Picture this: You're stepping off the bus to walk to University. It's a cloudless day, a soft breeze caresses your face gently and draws a smile upon it, and a strong feeling that it's going to be a pretty good day builds up so quickly it almost seems unbeatable. That's when your senses burst to life and reality hits home. The smell of grilled, juice-dripping chicken sitting idly on top of a crisp, fresh salad forces your head to look left at Spuntino. That's all right. Just a slight effort of resisting temptation and you keep on moving forward because nothing, nothing, is going to beat this glorious day! Then... mmmm..... perfectly cooked dough heavily sprinkled with layers of stretching mozzarella and all other sorts of ingredients. You ignore this, or at least pretend to, because you can't help but stare longingly at the people sitting at the tables eating pizzas. No need to worry. All that comes next are the out-of-this-world Turkish kebabs, and the smell of burgers and salted fries. [Ignore this, Noelene, ignore this.] You turn the final corner and you think that the worst is all behind you because all that remains now in the street are some stationeries. The smile starts creeping up again, slowly and cautiously. And before you know it you've fallen right in the trap. The aroma of melted chocolate and strong coffee jumps on you, catching you off guard from the Kreperie. You actually close your eyes to savour the smell and remember that 4 pieces of sandwich with 2 pieces of salami is all that you've got to eat in the next six hours or so: breakfast and lunch, all in one! Awesome.

Throughout the 1.21 challenge that I've decided to initially do for 15 days, this has been the test for me: the exaggerated amount and variety of foods that I incessantly see around me. People keep on consuming and consuming and yet, there is still a large amount of food that goes to waste. On the other hand, 1.2 billion people around the world live below the poverty line. Does that stir anything in you? If yes, do something about it. Donate money to any charity or just notice homeless people. Acknowledging them and exchanging a smile is a pretty good start. And if you feel nothing, well, then you've gotta see someone mate.

In these ten days, I've given in twice to temptation. The first time, was two days ago. Alone at home, trying to work on an assignment and the presence of food growing behind me. I snapped, opened the cupboard and attacked a can of caponata. The second time was, in fact, today while studying with friends at University. I gave in to a piece of pizza, a kinder bueno and a bottle of Pepsi. Yup, that's €3.50. Which means that someone uses that amount of money to live on for three days. It also means that I have to pay the price and extend the 15 days to 18. I haven't always spent 1.21 each day so the extra money I've 'saved' up went on the caponata. On the rest of the days, I've normally eaten a ftira or 4 pieces of sandwich or ciabata for lunch and breakfast and then, in the evening,  a plate of pasta, or a fish finger with an egg or thrown something similar on the plate.

That's why I decided to do this 1.21 challenge. To get a feeling of what it's like to live on 1.21 each day for just a small period of time. Even more so, whilst some of these 1.2 billion people don't have a roof over their heads, a family, a job or an education, I have a home and am still studying. So, no, I don't know what it's really like to live below the poverty line. I don't know how people manage to do that for days on end, all for the sake of survival and hope for a better life. I've donated €40 to Amplify and hoped to collect at least €500 so that a medical centre in a poor region in Cambodia can keep on helping its patients, children, men, women and people with disabilities alike. I still have eight more days to collect that 500, so do help out if you want to, please. After all, where's the harm in helping strangers?

Friday, 16 May 2014

Last Day!!

By Steve Hili

Today is the last day of the challenge.  We're only a few hours away from getting back into our 'normal' routines.

First of all I would like to say well done to all of those taking part. And thank you to all of those who supported us. The medical centre looks like it can be funded for over a year thanks to the wonderful donations.  But if anyone wants to give us a bit more PLEASE DO -

People said that we would survive and we knew of course that we would. After all  1.2 billion people survive under the poverty line every single day.

But for those people who think that living like this would not really impact them much, I invite them to try it. Just an experiment. Personally I thought it would be a bit easier.

Here a just a few random thoughts as we round up the week

  • Buying everything and working things out was exhausting. And also needing to portion things out was a real pain. It really was not easy.
  • There was a lot of time where we were actually hungry. Not starving but hungry and head-achy. When the portions of food were simply not enough.
  • I was lethargic for a lot of this week. I had hardly no energy yesterday and could not concentrate on some essential work that I needed to get done.
  • Drinking tap water really got me down for some reason. It really put me in a mood.
But here we are. Friday morning!

Today we've got oats for brekkie (again) Egg sandwich for lunch (again) and a baked potato or two for dinner.  There might be an extra potato to be eaten today too. Happy days!

And at midnight it will all be over.

For us that is. Not for the 1.2 billion.

When you think of it like that, it is embarrassing to think that I dared moan this week.

We hope we have made a tiny difference this week. And we hope that we have got a few more people talking about poverty.

I feel proud. We did something. Something small. But for us at least it was not insignificant.

But as we congratulate ourselves (as we should) let's not forget those who will still be living in and around the poverty line tomorrow. And the day after.  For them the challenge continues.

Thanks everyone and well done!

Steve x 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Home stretch ....

By Kathryn Baldacchino

So here we are with only two days left of the 121 Challenge. I have to admit that I underestimated how difficult it would be.

I think I'm missing my cup of coffees through the day the most, as I'm feeling utterly lethargic. The water has been a real struggle, and so has the volume of food. I would say I'm an average to big eater on a normal day, therefore having smaller portion sizes of food that isn't that nutritionally packed with goodness has been a struggle and I'm physically feeling run down because of it.

Yesterday's rice wasn't so bad, the evaporated milk made it palatable, but I'm not looking forward to finishing off the pasta we made the other night as that was not very nice.

Sarcastic grin at pasta with thin red sauce
I'm really really pleased to see the donations coming in - we've exceeded €2300.00 this morning, and we've also been given a few hundred in cash which is not on the website. Things are looking really good and at this rate there is a good chance we will manage to support the medical center for a whole year.

I'm also really appreciating the support we're receiving from many quarters, and from people we've never met before. People's generosity astounds me, especially considering that this fundraiser is for a Cambodian NGO most people had never heard of, and to support people that most people will never meet. Of course I am also aware of the hardship and poverty that exist near us all every day in Malta, and I hope that some of the generosity will also extend to them. I have always supported YMCA whenever I
can and encourage others to do the same. We're not supporting an NGO in Cambodia to the exclusion of being aware of poverty issues in Malta. I hope that by raising awareness of poverty in general we are also highlighting the situation in Malta. 

More recipe ideas ...

By Alexandra White

I was looking for cheap and nutritious recipes and thought I'd ask the experts. I wrote to Jamie Oliver's Kitchen Garden Project and here is the reply. The websites offer some great recipe ideas!

Hi Alexandra,

Thanks so much for your email and for getting in touch-it's really interesting to hear about the 1.12 challenge-what an inspirational idea!

Well as a first point of call why not take a look at our Ministry of Food recipes-many of these were created with low budgets in mind.

Furthermore, do take a look at the recipes on Jamie's Home Cooking Skills as again these are very simple and cost effective. 

And lastly take a look at the resources on the Food For Life Partnership website-again many of the recipes are super simple yet fun to make! 
We do wish you the best of luck with the challenge and hope that you keep us posted on your progress!
Jamie's Kitchen Garden Project Team x

Jamie Oliver's Kitchen Garden Project
Facebook: Jamie’s Kitchen Garden Project
Twitter: @jamieskgp

Monday, 12 May 2014

First day is done!

By Steve Hili

Day 1 of the challenge is drawing to a close.
And I am starving. And in a bit of a bad mood. (I get like that when I am hungry).
We bought everything on Saturday and actually came in 3c under budget which was quite incredible.  And after a hearty meal last night, it was time to jump right in.
Food today was oats for brekkie, and an egg sandwich for lunch.  We had pasta with a very weak tomato sauce for dinner. We bought a big packet of pasta so we should get another dinner out of it. And possibly something to bulk up the lunches.
And we managed to fit in a small packet of raisins to our budget so we are adding a couple to everything!
The worse part of the day was the tap water for me. Urgh. And finishing dinner and still being hungry.
Also having to work everything out. I have learnt of people who live like this (even here in Malta) everyday. Figuring it all out must be exhausting.
I think today was the worst day. First days always are right? Also for some reason I was so excited about the challenge I hardly slept last night.
Tuesday will be...interesting. I am performing in the evening (a stand -up gig) and I am usually quite  high energy but this evening I feel like I can hardly move!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

1.21€ - you'll survive on that!

By Steve Hili

The challenge looms! On Sunday night we will be eating our last 'proper' meal and going to bed before waking up to face 5 days of trying to balance around the poverty line.

The reaction to the challenge has been interesting. The vast majority of people seem to understand what we are trying to do, others seem to take a perverse pleasure in sending me pictures of strawberry cheesecake (!), and a couple of people have said to me - you'll survive on that.

You'll survive on that.

Of course we will. 1.2 billion people survive below the poverty line every day. The point is not to starve to death, the point is that life has to go on.

We are trying to live on 1.21€. Not die. I have got stand-up gigs to do. I have got radio shows to present and produce.  Other participants have  got to do their respective jobs, kids have got to go to school. Conferences need to be attended. Business decisions need to be made. (Not by me though so rest assured!)

It is an experiment -  live our life in this way for 5 days. Just to get a small taster (bad choice of word?) of what it would be like.

We are doing this (as well as trying to raise funds to support the incredible work our medical centre is doing in Cambodia) to raise a bit of awareness about a global situation.

And of course we are lucky. We are choosing to do this. Other people have no choice. Other people need to live like this every single day. Not only that but from their tiny amount of money they need to factor in other costs. Medicines. Transport. Heating.

On Saturday 17th May when it is all over, we'll be stuffing ourselves, eating whatever  we want. They won't. For them the challenge continues.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The 1.21 Challenge!

By Alexandra White

We have more children then anticipated doing the 1.21 challenge with the youngest being only 5 years old - I've been told they have been primed and willing to participate in our challenge. However I
am sure there will come a time during the 5 days that we will have some unhappy children.

For many of us parents depriving our children of any food whims or wants goes against our grain. As parents we want and like to see our kids eating well and healthily - we are satisfied when they
return an empty plate. Never is the fruit bowl empty and we would never say no to a request for an extra apple or banana!

But what if your child was always hungry - what if all you could offer your growing child was rice, cheap carbohydrates and processed food?

Whilst doing research for this challenge my friends and I have concluded that healthy fresh food costs money and needs time to prepare - commodities that are not available when living on the
bread line. (Bread line means you're poor, your income is so low you barely have enough money to buy basic food) AMAZINGLY enough this applies to over half the worlds population.

The reason my friends and I have only just made this conclusion is because we have never had to worry about the price of food - we just pick a recipe and buy what we want - our children have never
gone with out and although no-one likes to waste food we're not worried about not having enough for tomorrow.

But next week we are eating on the poverty line AND we haven't stopped thinking
about how we're going to manage and feed our kids for 5 days - imagine having this daily burden - How do these people cope.
This challenge is indeed thought provoking!
Please donate on : 

So what's all this about then?

By Kathryn Baldacchino

Here is the story of how this 

became this

And then became this

Steve and I volunteered for a Cambodian NGO called Yodifee. This NGO went to staggering lengths to support youth with disabilities. Yodifee has experienced that people with disabilities have huge obstacles to overcome within the Cambodian context, and discrimination against people with disabilities in Cambodia is rife, and this leads to their social exclusion. The exclusion of children and youth with disabilities from education, results in their forfeiting opportunities for further development, decreasing their access to vocational training, employment and income generation. Failure to benefit from education and training prevents the full inclusion of children and youth with disabilities into society, and ultimately increases their vulnerability to poverty.

Based in Takhmao, which is just a short while out of the city Phnom Penh, but is pretty rural, Yodifee has its headquarters - Villa Maria. Here they house some youth who for whatever reasons cannot remain at home if they want to pursue their studies and careers. Some have lost their family, others live too far away from a school and in wheelchairs would never manage to travel the distance, others have families who are too poor to support them. When possible, Yodifee also supports youth to remain with their families in their own villages - by providing financial or material support.

The high-school group living at Villa Maria when we volunteered there

Two of the high-school students
Nimul, the founder and director of Yodifee soon realised that equipping youth with education does not guarantee their employment and self-reliance. So he developed business support initiatives which trained youth with disabilitites in trades and professions, and then supported them to set up their own businesses.

One of the youth who was trained to repair televisions, and now has his own business.
Yodifee always aims to respond to whatever need is identified. Nimul explained to us that he had noted that many children in the rural area of Kampot had Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities, and he noted that there was no medical center near enough to support these families. He understood that some disabilities could be avoided if there was assisted childbirth and antenatal care, as well as access to immunisations.

With this in mind, he procurred a plot of land in Kampot and commenced planning to create a medical center. Alexandra White and others in Australia fund-raised to help make this building a reality. 

The beginning of structures
The beginnings of some building work
Nimul (third from left) and the others involved in developing this land
 When funds came in, more building continued, eventually resulting in the bones of a structure:

And finally, the medical center was completed. Here it stands in all its glory:

Amplify has endeavoured to continue supporting this center and the other work of Yodifee since this time. For example, Amplify has recently purchased a tuk-tuk to help students commute to school. Amplify maintains close interaction with Yodifee to try to support its needs. 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Menu Ideas for the 1.21 Challenge

By Alexandra White

Preparing some menu ideas for this weeks challenge is proving to be challenging indeed!  I'm a food lover and have been know to travel around seeking food and wine, and attending cooking classes. I try to grow my own vegetables, I endorse local fresh food, predominantly organic. I  love red wine and am a coffee snob!

This Challenge will indeed be a challenge on a budget of 1.12 euros per day - definitely no organic products or wine on this budget.  But only 5 days and for a good cause.

My plan is to buy all my items for the week leaving a couple of Euros for emergency.  I can't imagine having to do this everyday - worrying about every cent and how to feed my growing family. We are so very lucky.

Some menu ideas:

*Boiled eggs and toast
*Baked Beans on toast
*Oats with water/Milk depending on the budget
*Black tea or Black coffee
*Lemon water

Boiled egg sandwiches 
2 x Pastizzi
Maltese Hobz biz-zejt
Boiled rice with lemon+pepper

Pasta with tomato sauce
Pesto pasta
Rice and lentils
Lentil soup with maltese bread
Jacket potatoes and baked beans.
Snails with Bread
Steamed fish with veg ( frozen fish and veg will be used as cheaper)
Roasted chicken drumsticks with tomatoes - Veg or boiled rice. (Frozen chicken) 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Steve is gonna starve

By Steve Hili

As anyone who know me would testify, I have done some pretty stupid things in my life.

From climbing up a mountain in a t-shirt (it had seemed like a warm day when I was sitting inside my central-heated room) to  jumping into  the water on the edge of one of the biggest waterfalls in the world without listening to the safety briefing (my mind was too busy thinking how cool this was going to be), to trekking from Mellieha to Senglea  whilst keeping myself refreshed with a bottle of rum instead of water (I have no excuse for that - I just prefer rum to water), I have been known to embark on the odd ill-advised adventure.

However I have never purposefully starved myself.

Until now.

From May 12th I am going to be doing the 121 Challenge which basically means I have to spend 1eur and 21c or less on my food every day for five days.

Now I love food. I really do. So much so that I sometimes yell out 'lasagna' in my sleep. (Or 'Madras' on Wednesdays). I eat quite a lot and when I am hungry I get cranky. ( I once threatened to divorce Kat because a vending machine didn't have any Mars bars left. She didn't seem too flustered about it to be honest.)

So, all things considered, I don't think it would be out of this world to ask...why the hell am I doing this?

The idea behind the 121 Challenge is to raise awareness about what life is like for the 1.2 billion people around the world who have to live below the poverty line on a daily basis.

1.2 billion. I can't even comprehend that figure.

So let's put it in perspective. It is about 2500 times the population of Malta.

Malta x 2500. Think about it.

Imagine that for every person who lived in Malta there was another 2500. The European Union would be shaking in its boots!

But seriously, just think about it. For every person in Malta there was another 2500. And all of them lived below the poverty line.  Not just for 5 days. But every day.  Oh and from the money that we are using for food, they would need to budget for all the other costs that they have to incur to get through the day.  These might include transport,  medicines, etc.

Bloody hell. Sort of puts things in perspective, right?

Whilst we are in the process of starving ourselves, we are also be going to be collecting funds to continue to support a medical centre that we were involved in the setting up of a few years ago in Cambodia. This centre is doing amazing work and really changing lives - many new mums use this facility as well as kids and young people with disabilities. These are people who might otherwise not have had any access to medical attention  - but I'll talk more about them in another blog.

My point is we're doing this for a good cause. So if you can, please help us out. If you want to take the challenge brilliant, but if not then maybe you could donate something.  How about the equivalent of what you would usually spend on booze, or going out for a week?

Living on 1.21 a day.

Stupid? Nope.

If by going hungry for a few days we can raise some awareness and maybe a bit of money that can help change people's lives, this could be one of the best things I've ever done.

You can support the challenge on

Friday, 2 May 2014

Why in the world am I doing this?!

By Kathryn Baldacchino

Organising this fundraiser for Cambodia, and trying to figure out what we are going to eat has made me really reminisce about our time there and reminds me of the reasons why I am doing this.

During our work there, we would visit the country-side and find families who could not afford much food. They would scrape together enough money to buy some rice, and they would only accompany this with salt in order to give it a little more flavour and ward off the hunger. We visited one particular family that was trying to grow its own rice, but wasn't managing to grow enough to live on completely, so they had to buy additional rice. They would also forage in their rice field to collect snails which they would boil and add to their rice. Families would worry that their lack of proper food was hindering their children's ability to grow and fully function, but they could not do anything about this as they had no means of earning an income.

The organisation we worked for, Yodifee, would often explain that some disabilities developed because of the families' lack of access to food security and health care facilities. And like the chicken-and-egg conundrum, people who have disabilities are at increased risk of never having full food security.

Food in Cambodia always centres on the staple food - which is rice. In fact, we would be called to our meals by the grandmother of the house saying "Nyam Bai", and literally translated it means "Eat Rice".

When we lived in Cambodia, nearly every meal would include rice. By the time we finished our stint there, I could not bear to even look at rice, let alone eat it. We would have our own portions of rice in front of us and there would then be a communal plate of something small that would complement the rice, such as a fish or some beef or a soup. We would take from the communal plate and add it to our own portions of rice. Needless to say, rice cookers are the most important part of a Cambodian kitchen.

Here is a photo of our Cambodian friends eating when we visited the country-side with them. Each person has their own plate of rice, taking from the communal bowls which are the silver ones.

We also tried many other delicacies too. One of my favourites was literally translated as 'Cow climbs up the mountain', and it was made on a funny cone shaped frying pan (imagine a frying pan mountain) over a gas burner. We would have fresh pieces of beef which we dunked in egg and then stuck to the sides of this cone for it to cook. We would then add the beef to our plates of rice. While travelling in the countryside we also feasted on frogs speared through two bamboo sticks and we had a huge bag of crabs while we rested in the sea-side town of Kep.


I developed a tummy infection while there, and our Cambodian friends suggested that they take me to the Cambodian equivalent of a western fast-food restaurant to have burgers and fries, as they attributed my tummy troubles to the fact that I had not eaten 'western' food for so long! I managed to grin and try to eat something, but all I wanted at the time was bed rest in a dark room!

My time in Cambodia had a huge influence on my life. I was exposed to realities I had never imagined and realise that my own fortunes could have been very different had I simply been born in a different place. This is what is spurring my participation in this challenge. Unlike those we met, I will only be doing this for five days, but I hope that doing so raises some awareness to how so many other people in the world live - and raises some much needed funds for the medical centre.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

What are we doing?

From Monday 12th until Friday 16th May we aim to eat on €1.21 each per day in order to raise awareness about extreme poverty & raise funds to change lives in one of the poorest countries on the planet. 

The 121 challenge was inspired by the global Live Below the Line movement and is being led locally by the NGO Amplify. This challenge aims to bring into focus some of the experiences of the 1.2 billion people around the world who live in extreme poverty. 

At the same time the Amplify team aims to collect funds to continue to support a medical centre which the group set up in Cambodia in 2008 and which continues to transform the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.

You can support us by donating on
and find out how we are progressing at

Amplify set up a Medical Centre in Kampot, Cambodia back in 2008/9. This centre has now been running for a number of years, providing free consultation and medicine for, amongst others new mothers, children and young people with disabilities. The centre is doing great work but still needs some assistance as it strives to become more sustainable. We hope to be able to support it through funds raised during the 121 Challenge! PLEASE BE GENEROUS!