Former charity worker Claire McKeever is well used to surviving without her home comforts.
For the past eight months, the 31-year-old Portstewart woman has been on an adventure of a lifetime in South America travelling around Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina.
But recently she decided to go one step further and take up the challenge to survive on £1 a day for a week for Concern Worldwide to experience what it’s like for billions of people living in poverty.
Claire heard about Live Below the Line while working at the Concern office in Belfast. She made up her mind that she would take on the challenge herself, even though she knew she would be far from home and halfway through her adventures in Latin America.
“When I originally signed up with Concern I was back in Belfast. If I’m honest, I didn’t quite see myself doing it on the other side of the world, but I wasn’t going to let that deter me,” she said.
The former Dominican College pupil, who spent six years working for a church organisation in London, said that taking part in the challenge while in Argentina was a “great experience” but admitted that it was difficult.
“I thought my budget would stretch further because living costs are generally a bit lower in South America. But that definitely wasn’t the case in Buenos Aires. It was a massive struggle trying to stay within the £5 limit (67 Argentinean pesos).”
Claire’s weekly shopping consisted of an onion, a bag of flour and rice, stock cubes, pasta, lentils, beans, three eggs and tomato sauce.
“I succeeded in the end, but it was tough and humbling at the same time, especially when you consider that billions of people around the world live on even less and probably don’t have the luxury of a supermarket to go to.
“The hardest part was not what I was eating but what I needed to give up. My one vice in life is coffee, so staying off that for a week not only resulted in pounding headaches but it also impacted my energy levels. I soon realised I was too reliant on caffeine,” she admitted.
So far, Claire has raised £325 for international humanitarian organisation Concern Worldwide, which will go towards tackling hunger with the most vulnerable people in the world’s poorest places. She plans to stay in Argentina for the next four months, before returning home again as a “different person” – changed by the whole experience.
“I’m so glad I took up the challenge. Getting a glimpse into how people manage to live on very little was a real eye opener. It has definitely challenged me in my own way of living to be more conscious of those who have less.”
There’s still time to donate to Claire’s fundraising: www.livebelowtheline.com/me/clairem Find out more about Concern: www.concern/net