Michael Wrigley, 35
We distinctly remember Wrigley sitting in the holding room in Robinsons after an event with SK-II and Godfrey Gao. It was a couple of days before he was due to start on his challenge of surviving on $5 a day for a month, and it was clear that he had no qualms about indulging in a few glasses of scotch while bemoaning his task at hand and itemising a list of luxuries he’d have to forgo. We were expecting to meet a dishevelled man, reeling from mild malnutrition after he had completed his challenge. But Wrigley was bright, energetic and insisted that the experience was as enjoyable as it was meaningful.
You didn’t cheat, did you?
(laughs) Of course not. I had many friends who invited me for barbecues and dinners and said, “Technically you’re not spending anything. We’re giving you food.” But I knew that would defeat the purpose of my challenge to campaign against poverty and that’s why I had to say no.
How did you deal with your want to go out and have a pint of beer?
It was difficult. When I initially planned my schedule, I intentionally excluded any social situations that would tempt me to spend money. But then I realised that’s not what people living on $5 a day would do. They’d still have a social life despite their stringent budgets. So I started going out for events and social gatherings and explaining to my clients and colleagues that I wasn’t going to have anything other than ice water because of my challenge. Everyone was really supportive. In fact, it resonated with them and I may have inspired people to get on board and take on the challenge themselves.
Why did you even set that challenge for yourself?
I was already planning to do the Live Below The Line Challenge, which is a global initiative to raise awareness for poverty and live £1 a day for five days. So when A-Listers came around, I simply adapted from that by increasing the duration as well as amount of spending. I wanted to do something that Singaporeans can relate to.
How did you pull off your challenge?
With a lot of planning and preparation, obviously. I was comparing various grocery stores to figure out which was the cheapest. I had to work out what kinds of food I was going to eat over the course of the week. I shopped in 10-day spells, picking up my staples such as rice, bread and pasta before adding whatever else I could with whatever little I had left. As can be expected, I was eating a lot of vegetable-based dishes, and not a lot of meat or fish.
Does this mean you ate the same dish for a whole week?
(laughs) That would be the case for breakfast. I would usually make a huge batch of vegetable muesli at the beginning of the week and basically have a scoop of it every morning to start my day.
What about transportation?
That was a real grind. I live just off Holland Village and work in the CBD, which isn’t very far. But I had to make sure I was on the MRT train by seven o’clock every morning in order to check out by 7.45am, making my trip free.
Did you ever miss the 7.45am mark?
I never missed it because if I knew I wasn’t going to make it, I would take the bus.
What was your experience interacting with some of the CARE students?
I spent a Saturday morning volunteering at Willing Hearts, a soup kitchen that prepares and delivers food to those in need. And that was when I got to interact with two students, Sean and Navin, from CARE. They were brilliant. They were very helpful and involved themselves as much as possible. They wouldn’t just rest on the task that was given to them, they had the initiative to look for more things to help with.
How was your A-Lister experience?
This year’s edition of A-Listers is different from all the previous years. I didn’t consider joining A-Listers until I found out about the charitable element this time around. That’s when I told myself that it was going to be good this year. There is always going to be an element of theatre with A-Listers, what with all the events, photo shoots and interviews. But there is an added dimension this year, which has allowed me to raise awareness for poverty as well as money for CARE Singapore. We all live in such a fantastic place in Singapore and I think it’s a great opportunity, not only to stretch ourselves a little but also to give back to the community as well.
Do you intend to continue giving back after A-Listers?
Absolutely. I’ll definitely be participating in the Willing Hearts soup kitchen again. I’m going to try and get more people to volunteer and help out as well. I’ve also committed to doing more activities with CARE Singapore once this is over. August Man really allowed us to kick on and provided us with stuff we could get involved in. I think a lot of people would like to do more for charity, it’s just a matter of finding the right things and the motivation to do it.
Michael Wrigley, 35