Amy Holly, who has been with EFTC for 6 years, is leaving the Foundation in August to pursue other opportunities. Before she leaves, she is doing one final challenge for the Foundation. Amy will be living on 6 Quetzales a day ($0.75) for a week - which is how much an average EFTC beneficiary lives on. Read Amy's blog below and support her campaign!
I’ve worked at the project in Guatemala for nearly 4 years now, so I’m no stranger to the reality of the lives of our kids. I know they live in tin shacks with mud floors, I know they suffer at home from violence and at times abuse and I know they often go hungry. For years now I have worked with EFTC to improve their lives and give them a chance to break out of the poverty cycle through getting a decent education but perhaps on some level I don’t fully understand their reality.
I don’t live an extravagant life but I also never have to worry about going hungry and what that might mean. I do love my little luxuries like most of us do- going out for coffee, a glass of wine, a meal. Jumping in a tuk tuk or a taxi when I need to, buying whatever ingredients I need to cook a nice meal, buying my rice from the supermarket rather than the market because I can’t be bothered to walk the extra couple of blocks to save a few quetzales.
So this week, I’m trying a different reality; I’m trying to spend a few days looking at things the way our kids might. I’m living off Q6 a day (that’s 50p or about 75c) for 5 days- the average amount that one family member at our project lives off.
My week starts by getting up at 5am to go to the market. On Monday mornings, the trucks come to Antigua’s market loaded with produce from all over Guatemala. This is the cheapest time to buy everything and is where the market stall workers buy all of their produce to sell for the week.
So this week it makes a difference whether my rice costs Q3 or Q3.50. I scour the stalls for the best bargains and decide what I can afford; I choose rice, dried black beans, some potatoes, an onion, some salt, some sugar, 6 bananas, 5 limes and a sachet of coffee. It comes to Q11.50 which I am pretty pleased with.
Oil is way too expensive. Herbs or other flavouring seems out of the question. I thought mayonnaise might be a good option for a potato salad but costs more than half a day’s budget for the smallest bag. As a dedicated tea drinker I search for a cheap box of tea but it’s more than a day’s budget, and a single teabag costs Q1 which seems extravagant. Maybe I can buy just one if I get desperate.
Vegetables are relatively cheap but I’m more worried about going hungry than I am about vitamins. If there’s enough left over I might buy a carrot or some tomatoes later in the week but it seems risky right now.
How about milk? Again, a carton of milk or a packet of milk powder costs more than a day’s budget. Eggs seem a good option at Q1 each but I decide to wait to see if I need them. Breakfast cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit or other breakfast options all seem impossible. The bananas that I bought will have to be my daily breakfast.
In the afternoon I start getting a headache - could be caffeine withdrawal as I hadn’t had any coffee or tea, or maybe a lack of sugar. Who knows. The walk to and from school isn’t too far- 30 minutes each way- but it’s far enough to hurt when you’re not feeling well. Suddenly the thought of a tuk tuk at Q15 seems like such a luxury- and right now an impossibility.
Dinner is a sorry looking plate of boiled potatoes and a scrambled egg (Q1) with salt and some local tortillas (4 for Q1) from the ladies who make them fresh in my local corner store. It is bland and depressing but it’s enough to fill me up. I’m pleased I bought the salt but I crave ketchup, mayo, chilli sauce, butter, any kind of flavour!
My housemate is eating pizza. It smells really good. Some friends of mine are in Antigua and ask me to go out. I explain to them I can’t go.
The headache knocks me out completely and I crash out at 8.30 pm in agony. I keep thinking about taking some of the pain killers that I have in my house but I decide it would be cheating. They don’t fit into my budget and I know medicine is one of the problems our families have- they are often totally out of the question.
I wake up with the headache. I keep trying to drink lots of water in case it’s dehydration or in case it will help the caffeine withdrawals. I drink some of the ‘coffee and grain drink’ sachet that I had bought at the market with some sugar. I miss my cappuccino.
I walk to school and get on with my day.
The hot soup that the kitchen ladies make for the 10am snack is delicious and makes me feel a lot better. Lunch is mixed vegetables (green beans, carrots, peppers, onions) with a boiled egg, some tomato sauce and tortillas. It’s delicious, filling, and the sugary Rosa de Jamaica drink also makes me feel better.
Another friend invites me to lunch in Antigua. Again, I say I can’t go along.
On Tuesday nights I normally go to yoga but of course I don’t go this week. I think about doing something at home but the headache is too bad.
I want a cup of tea. I want a cappuccino. I want something sweet, some biscuits, a sugary drink, some cake! The headache lasts until night time again. I drink two big glasses of limonada made with the limes, water and the sugar which make me feel better. I cook up a traditional cheap meal of rice with beans and onions and I buy some more tortillas. The salt saves the meal once again.
I’m not feeling so bad. I walk to school and thoroughly enjoy the chocolatey rice drink that is given out at break time. Our kids are so lucky. I am so lucky. How would I be coping if I couldn’t eat the school meals right now? How would they cope? The kitchen is full of delicious looking veggies that I couldn’t afford in the market. Big piles of mange tout peas and red peppers are being chopped up by the wonderful kitchen ladies and volunteer mums to feed to the 500 kids whose parents probably also couldn’t stretch to buying vegetables in the market this week either.
I see that I’ve hit £2000 on my fundraising and I’m over the moon. Even if this headache lasts all week I will push through because for me it’s just a few days of missing out on my luxuries whereas for our kids it’s their everyday reality.
Maybe with your help I can raise enough to fund the food programme for a whole month - that’s just £700 more.