Nick Allardice has done something about apathy towards poverty, writes ANDI YU.
Nick Allardice could never have known that a chat with a friend over beers one night would lead to a global campaign raising millions for the world's poor.
This week more than 10,000 Australians ate to a budget of $2 a day as part of the Live Below the Line challenge.
Bendigo-bred Nick is the creator of the campaign, which he dreamt up back in 2009 with friend Richard Fleming.
“We were getting frustrated at how hard it was to communicate with people about the issue of extreme poverty. It’s so remote and so outside the experiences of the vast majority of Australians," Nick said.
The idea began as a personal challenge to each other to live off a drastically reduced budget for one month.
“It gave us an emotional connection to the issue we were working on. We also found that it started a lot of conversations with people who otherwise would never have engaged with the issue," he said.
Five years later the idea has transformed into an international campaign that has raised nearly $10 million for the world’s poor.
Live Below the Line started officially in 2010 on a tiny budget, self-taught tech skills and little preparation.
Nick was the managing director of Oaktree, a youth aid and development organisation in Melbourne, and remembers being no where near raising the target amount of $200,000.
But something happened during the food challenge.
“We learned that the week when people are actually living below the line is actually an extremely powerful experience.”
Donations from supporters of those eating rice and other basic staples rose so quickly, their target more than doubled to almost half a million.
Live Below the Line has become the main fundraising effort enabling Oaktree to fund and support education projects in some of the world's most needy communities.
Oaktree CEO Viv Benjamin says the campaign deals intimately with the sense of public apathy towards poverty that troubled Nick in 2009.
“The antidote to apathy is empathy and that’s what Live Below the Line is all about,” she says.
Nick has since moved on from Oaktree to be the managing director for the Asia Pacific region of Change.org, a website that hosts petitions for social change.
“A guiding principle for the decisions that I make about my life is 'where is the single place that I can have the biggest impact on the issues that I care about?'”
Change.org is the world's fastest growing platform for social change and has 60 million users so it’s certainly making an impact.
Nick has been responsible from starting up Change.org in India, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
He lists a few issues he and his team are working on: Helping small villages in India fight government corruption, getting people on the streets of Jakarta access to clean water and preventing rural schools in Thailand from closing down.
Nick says these are the issues that make him excited to get up in the morning.
Nick’s mother Kaye Bearlin says her son’s values were shaped by a strong family and community based in Eaglehawk.
“He was an all-rounder and he had a heart - he had a kind, compassionate, caring sort of nature.”
Nick says a traditional career might have made him a “cog in the wheel”.
“I’m really lucky to be in a place where I can do both what I love and something that aligns so closely with my values.”