Showing refugees we're with them, not against them
This is a story about hope. A story about determination. And a story about how one small idea grew into a movement for change.
Last November I travelled to Jordan see Act for Peace’s work with Syrian families living in urban refugee camps. These were mothers, fathers and small children who’d been living normal lives and then suddenly lost everything – their homes, belongings, people they love – and found themselves strangers in a foreign country, cold, hungry and alone.
Karen McGrath/Act for Peace
I saw the terrible conditions they were now living in and their desperate need for food and medical care. But more than that, I felt the pain they were suffering as they described the horrors they had fled from. A family told me how they’d run from their house in the night as bombs flew towards them, a woman explained how she’d lost her sister and unborn child and two young boys, Fathi and Majdi, described how they had lost their dad. I was deeply saddened to see families who had already suffered so much living in such desperate conditions.
But despite all that I saw, I still had hope.
I had hope because I knew there was a growing community of people back in Australia who were willing to stand up and show Syrian refugees living in Jordan, and other displaced people around the globe, that there are people in this world who still care about them – by taking the Act for Peace Ration Challenge. Last June, 1,600 people challenged themselves to eat the same rations as a Burmese refugee during Refugee Week and get sponsored to do it. Together we raised $456,000. This June, responding to the desperate situation faced by Syrian refugees, over 8,000 people signed up to take the Ration Challenge, this time eating the same rations as a Syrian refugee living in Jordan.
Bringing hope and comfort to refugees in Jordan
By putting themselves in the shoes of refugees, these courageous people raised over $2 million, which is now helping to deliver desperately needed food rations to families who were going hungry, provide counselling services for people traumatised by the war and give Syrian refugee children the chance of an education and a safe environment to learn and play.
The response was so incredible, our partner on the ground was able to distribute extra food rations right away, and a few weeks ago I travelled back to Jordan to see the difference the funds are making in the camps.
I watched as volunteer staff placed packages of emergency food rations into the hands of families in need, and visited the children’s forums where Syrian refugee kids were making friends and participating in classroom activities, a glimmer of normality in their broken lives.
I got to meet Majdi and Fathi again, the twin boys who lost their dad when they fled Syria four years ago. Majdi and Fathi have been relying on food rations for almost half their life, but their strength and resilience was inspiring. Life in a refugee camp didn’t stop the boys from smiling and laughing as they told me what they wanted to be when they grew up. Fathi told me he’s going to be a dentist, “I want to help people smile”. His brother Majdi on the other hand, dreams of being a pilot “to help people get from place to place so that they can be with their families.”
It’s heartbreaking that children so young have already suffered through so much, but knowing that Majdi and Fahti are not going to bed hungry because of the determination of people back home makes me proud to be part of this growing Ration Challenge community. While we can’t ever truly imagine the physical, emotional, and psychological pain that refugees have gone through, we can act in solidarity with those who are struggling. Together, we are showing refugees we’re with them, not against them.
By Karen McGrath - Act for Peace staff member and Cofounder of the Ration Challenge
You raised over $2 million - thank you!
During Refugee Week, June 19-25, over 8,000 courageous people signed up to eat the exact samefood rations that Syrian refugees living in camps in Jordan receive. By surviving on just a small amount of rice, beans, lentils, fish, oil and flour for an entire week, participants raised funds to provide Syrian refugees with urgently needed food, medicine and other kinds of support they need to survive.
To learn more about taking the Ration Challenge in 2017 visit: actforpeace.org.au/rationchallenge
More ways to take action
You can help prevent children like Maala being born with chronic illnesses by helping pregnant women stay healthy and nourished in the first place.
Take the Act for Peace Ration Challenge and eat the same rations as a Syrian refugee during Refugee Week (19-26 June 2016). Raise money to support refugees who have lost everything, and challenge perspectives – including your own.
Right now, thousands of innocent people are fleeing Syria every day to protect their families from bloodshed, violence and death. We need your support to provide emergency relief packs to the families fleeing in Syria.