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The Ration Challenge begins on June 19, 2016 and aims to raise money to provide food and medicine for Syrian refugees.
Participants in the challenge gain donations from sponsors by eating the same amount of food as a Syrian refugee for one week. This consists of only 420g of rice, 170g of lentils, 85g of dried chick peas, and a tin each of kidney beans and sardines.
Anyone can take part in the challenge, all they have to do is register on the website, and a ration kit with the food quantities will be sent out in the mail.
27 year old musician Surya Sumantara reveals he decided to take part in the challenge as the Syrian refugee crisis is a cause that means a lot to him.
“This conflict resonates strongly with me because just across the Mediterranean from Syria lies Cyprus. My mother’s family fled the civil war there and were fortunate enough to make their way [to Australia], where they were able to rebuild and thrive,” he states.
Mr. Sumantara began the challenge with $500 as his fundraising goal, but has now increased this to $1000 after achieving his original goal in one week.
“These [refugees] are just like us. These people are families, teenagers, young adults and kids, just trying to survive. Just $139 can feed a refugee for six months, so I’m overwhelmed by the support I have already received,” Mr. Sumantara declares.
Act for Peace started The Ration Challenge in 2015 after visiting the Mae La refugee camp on the border of Thailand, and becoming ashamed by what they saw.
Director of Fundraising and Co-founder of the Ration Challenge Ben Littlejohn and his colleagues decided to live off rations for one week, to experience first-hand the limited diet of a refugee.
He claims that taking the Ration Challenge made first-world-problems seem very insignificant, and also allowed himself and his colleagues to find the determination to speak out on behalf of refugees who are struggling around the world.
“It helped us appreciate how lucky we are to live in this country, to have it so good, and to have such wonderful, supportive and generous friends. It opened our eyes to how difficult it is to be a refugee, and gave us a new respect for people around the world who are doing it so tough,” he states.
In 2015, over $400,000 was raised for Burmese refugees, providing enough food to feed more than 1850 refugees for one year.
Due to the success of the challenge last year, Act for Peace decided to host the challenge again in 2016, to raise further money for more refugees. They decided to target this year’s fundraising efforts toward Syrian refugees, due to the extreme humanitarian crisis that has resulted from the conflict in Syria.
The food provided for the challenge reflects the ration packs that are distributed in refugee camps by Act for Peace. This allows participants to experience what it is like to survive on rations, like a Syrian refugee living in Jordan would.
Mr. Littlejohn believes the Ration Challenge is all about showing refugees we are with them, and not against them.
“The money [people] raise will help ensure Syrian refugees have enough to eat, but most importantly by taking the Ration Challenge [participants] are telling refugees around the world that there are people who still care about them.
“These are families living among the local population. Squashed into basements, rooms, or whatever accommodation they can find, these urban refugee ‘camps’, are mostly concrete slums on the edges of towns. We prioritise the people living here because they’re harder to reach and receive less support than those in living the big refugee camps,” he explained.
Syria’s Civil War has now been going on for over five years, causing Syria’s population of 22.8 million to live in fear.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) states one-in-every-two of the half a million people crossing the Mediterranean this year were Syrians escaping the conflict in their country (2016).
However, shortages in funding mean that even the most helpless Syrian refugees are currently receiving just $21.60 a month, or approximately US$0.70 cent a day per person for food assistance. This is less than half of the poverty line amount of US$1.90 formed by the UN.
Act for Peace states The Ration Challenge not only raises money for extra food and medicine in refugee camps, but also for their Refugee Program which aims to provide further emergency relief such as clean water, clothing, hygiene packs and more.
Amnesty International estimates the conflict between the Syrian government and rebels has so far killed over 250,000 people and created more than 4.6 million refugees (2016).
For more information about The Ration Challenge, or to sign up, go to www.actforpeace.rationchallenge.org.au