From June 19-25, 2016 thousands of Australians will survive on modest serves of rice, flour, lentils and sardines. No, it’s not a new fad diet, it’s Act for Peace’s Ration Challenge. These are exactly the same rations that Syrian families survive on every single week in refugee camps in Jordan.
Ration Challenge is our chance to show refugees that we care while raising money to make sure kids and their families don’t go hungry. According to UNHCR figures, 4.8 million people have fled Syria since civil war broke out. Three-quarters of these refugees are women and children who have survived horrors that most Australians can barely imagine.
The Aussie mums signing up for the Ration Challenge
Em Toxward, Gold Coast mum of three, and I, Melbourne mum of two, are both first-timers in the Ration Challenge this year and we’re more than a little nervous. No coffee, no alcohol, no sugar and just eight teabags for an entire week. It’s a fairly serious detox for someone who’s used to indulging in richly varied modern Australian cuisine and watching Masterchef.
I asked Em what she thinks will be the hardest: “It will be the blandness that I’ll struggle with. I think seeing my family eat normal meals will also be ridiculously hard, but I have the mental toughness for it, I hope!”
Em has raised more than $500 so far – enough to feed two Syrian refugees for an entire year – and is relieved to be able to take tangible action. “My kids sort of know how fortunate they are to have a roof, food and safety because I often bang on about certain social issues to them. By watching me consume so little food, I hope it might ignite a little fire in their bellies so they think before complaining about every meal.”
Refugee life isn’t just about being hungry
Ration Challenge aims to recreate the experience of eating like a refugee on restricted rations. However, even if I went hungry while camping in my backyard without running water, electricity and internet for a week I still wouldn’t come close to facing the traumas that haunt refugees.
Nabil, a Syrian father who escaped the conflict, tells Save Our Children: “Children are on the frontline in this war in many ways. I have seen with my own eyes children used as human shields. When two tanks came into the village I saw children attached to them, tied up by their hands and feet, and by their torsos. The tanks came through the village and no one stood in their way or fought because we knew we would kill the children.”
Rasha and her family found safety in a refugee camp in Jordan. Getting there was not simple, as she told Act for Peace: “We walked for days to get to the Jordanian border… we were being shot at the whole journey. It was either you walk and live, or you die. We were so tired.”
Donations making a real difference in refugee camps
Melbourne woman, Sarah Clifford, was so moved by the plight of families escaping the horrors of Syria that she took a few weeks out of her extended European holiday to volunteer at a Syrian refugee camp in Greece.
Sarah spent long days distributing clothes, basic hygiene and baby care items to refugee mums and their kids. “Some families arrive having lost everything, many arrive wet from the boats, countless arrive looking traumatised from their ordeal. There are a lot of children.”
Despite her own exhaustion, she says, “It is incredibly rewarding to be able to restore a little bit of dignity and comfort to people who often have been through so much. And the hugs are also very nice!”
Want to get involved?
Syrian refugees are just like you and me, except that they’ve lost their homes, their history and sometimes their family. Let’s help to give the survivors a brighter future.