In May this year, I made the decision to sacrifice a week of my relatively indulgent lifestyle to become involved in a worldwide pledge to put an end to extreme poverty. I'm sure you're probably thinking: "How does a smiley Northern chick propose to eradicate the world's biggest problem just by simply offering a week of her time?" Well, I hopped on down to the supermarket, spent a fiver on rice and tinned tomatoes, promised I'd live on that and nothing else for a period of five days and asked people to sponsor me for it. The challenge was Live Below the Line and on the day that I decided to become involved, I became a Global Citizen fighting to put an end to world poverty. As a result of my pledge and the overwhelming generosity that people showed in their donations, I was chosen to attend the Global Citizen Festival that took place on the 29th of September in Central Park, New York.
The concert was organised by the Global Poverty Project, the organisations responsible for Live Below the Line and supported by an assemblage of charities and campaigners with one overriding objective in mind - to end extreme poverty within a generation. They came together merged ideas, planned and prepared an event that they hoped would inspire those that attended. And they achieved a result to be proud of.
As far as charity gigs go, there's probably no better place on the planet than Central Park at the beginning of autumn. There we were, sixty-thousand people crowded beneath a city skyline at sunset swaying to Neil Young and Crazy Horse as the streetlights behind us flickered in response to the impending darkness. There was singing, there was bouncing, but most of all there were inspired people. Thousands of people united in their one sole purpose - to stand as Global Citizens who have campaigned and fought for the end of world poverty. The explosive post-grunge dynamics played out through the fingertips of Dave Grohl and his band Foo Fighters arguably contrasted with squeaky clean Disney-kid Selena Gomez's tender speech on the tireless work of UNICEF but nevertheless proved that the Global Citizen family is one that is exclusive only to humanity.
An unexpected and welcome arrival of soul singer John Legend saw a touching version of John Lennon's ever-relevant â??Imagine' tinkered out to a grateful crowd and we listened with intent to the speeches and statements of charity co-ordinators and ambassadors.
There was talk of thanks, help and improvement. Statistics on childbirth mortality rates silenced the chatter of the audience as Somali midwife Edna Adan was rightly rewarded a Dedication to Service Award for her outstanding achievement of training 200 nurses and 150 midwives in Somaliland. The crowd applauded as Edna gave thanks and vowed to continue her tireless work in preventing the unnecessary deaths of thousands of women and babies every year.
Other exceptional individuals were rewarded for their time and dedication to charitable causes: Haitian amputee Wilfred Macena was presented the Community and Leadership award for his endless courage and spirit in the plight of the earthquake that left his country devastated in 2010. Urmi Basu, an honourable lady who devotes her life to fighting gender inequality and female oppression in India, was given the award for Commitment to Justice and Systematic Change, and Jonas Salk was posthumously commended for his life changing developments in the area of Technology and Innovation.
And through all the words of thanks and encouragement, we, the audience stood in awe of the remarkable people who have relentlessly offered so much time and energy into such a selfless cause but one that is so central to the heart of our universe. So we stood, we watched, we listened and we thought about what we could do in the fight against global poverty. I stood alone in the crowd and thought to myself: "This has to end, the whole reason we're here has to end." And it will. Through the work of charities and the people who care enough to become Global Citizens, poverty will end.
The festival saw an astounding $1.3billion dollars raised in commitments to end world poverty and I, for one, hope that this figure is just the beginning of a long but worthwhile battle with an issue that claims the lives of millions every year. I hope people saw and heard about a rock concert where a crowd boogied into the darkness to the distinctive blues rock sounds of The Black Keys. I hope the word of sixty thousand people enjoying themselves in the name of charity spread through the streets of New York. And I hope that next year, the Global Citizen Festival will be back to light up the Great Lawn of Central Park (or even somewhere fitting in the UK!) with more music, awards and pledges. I hope that together, we can save lives.
You can join me in living below the line in 2013 by registering at www.livebelowtheline.com/uk