My Refugee Week Ration Challenge Experience

Refugee Week Ration Challenge 2017

I did the Refugee Week Ration Challenge this year, where from June 18 to 25 I ate only the rations that a refugee in a camp in Jordan would receive through the Act for Peace charity. I did this to raise money for this important overseas aid program, and so far I’ve raised $1287, which is enough to send 35.5 Syrian girls to school! There’s still time to donate if you’re interested – the link is here.

A lot of people were curious to see how the week went, so here’s what happened…

Preparation

I’m getting my rations together. In addition to the food that came in my refugee ration box, I have a couple of “food stamps” to cash in, and some extras that I’ve managed to earn through fundraising (thank you so much to the kind people who donated!) There’s essentially no fresh food, and way more carbs and less protein than I’m used to.

  • 1920 g of rice: I… hate rice. I know this makes me a bad Asian, but my parents used to force me to eat more rice so I’d grow big and strong. I bought both medium and long grain rice for this challenge to give myself some variety, but I’m not sure changing the shape a tiny bit is going to make a difference. I’ve never voluntarily cooked rice before either, except for risotto.
  • 400 g flour: This is a bit more exciting but it’s plain flour, not self-raising, and there isn’t that much to mix it with.
  • 400 g tinned kidney beans: I’m not a huge fan of beans, but it should at least taste a little different!
  • 85 g dried chickpeas: Really not into these, and I’ve never seen them in dried form before, so at least it’ll be an experience!
  • 170 g dried lentils: The one time I cooked lentils they got charred to a crisp (the only time I’ve properly burned food). Bodes well.
  • 125 g tinned sardines: I started eating sardines a while ago to boost my omega 3 intake, but got bored pretty quickly.
  • 300 mL vegetable oil: At least it’s not a carb!

Refugee Week Ration Challenge 2017

This works out to be under the minimum energy requirements for the average adult, but it’s what refugees survive on (and sometimes there isn’t enough to go around, so they have to share!).

I’ve also earned some extras through my fundraising efforts:

  • 50 g sugar: 50 g of sugar is REALLY LITTLE, you guys. It doesn’t even fill two shot glasses. It’s 12.5 teaspoons which sounds like a fair bit, but that’s less than two teaspoons a day. I’m planning to mix it into rice porridge with cinnamon and milk powder to make desserts.
  • 120 g protein: Lean mince. I decided this would be the easiest to split up over the week, and I’ve decided to start with less and ramp up in case the week gets too unbearable.
  • 170 g vegetable: At first I picked frozen spinach, again because it’s easy to divide and cook and nutritious, but later on I’ll have a change of heart and switch to onion.
  • 70 g milk powder: This was a reward for joining a team. It actually smells delicious, and it’s so fluffy that 70 g looks like heaps! It’s equivalent to half a litre of milk.
  • 12 teabags: I’m usually quite picky with my tea and drink looseleaf oolong, but to make it more authentic for the challenge I’m going to be drinking teabagged oolong – quelle horreur! (I can’t quite make the switch to black tea, but this brand of oolong is super cheap so I feel like it’s fair.)
  • Unlimited spices: Because I’ve joined a team, I get to use their chosen spices as well, yay! We’ve decided on chilli, cumin, stock powder and cinnamon. I put them into little baggies so I can have them on hand, because the food looks terribly bland. It looks a bit shifty.

My Refugee Week Ration Challenge Experience

  • 2 teaspoons coffee: A reward for having a team of 4. I’m not a coffee drinker so this is for flavour only.
  • $5 treat: I split this with two other teammates so we have $1.67 each to spend on a treat of our choice.

The organisers helpfully sent out a meal plan, which looks like this:

My Refugee Week Ration Challenge Experience

No surprise, there’s way too much rice for my liking!

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Refugee Week Ration Challenge 2017

Refugee Week Ration Challenge 2017

I’m doing the Ration Challenge this year, where I’m going to attempt to survive on refugee rations for a week from June 18-25 (Refugee Week). Refugees are a big political issue here in Australia, and I get very upset when I see the uncompassionate way the major political parties treat and even just talk about fellow human beings who have risked everything to rebuild their lives somewhere safe. We can’t choose where we’re born, and I’d like to think that other people would want to help me if I was in that situation – so I decided to do something about it!

Refugee Week Ration Challenge 2017

Here’s my food for the week, which are the same rations a Syrian refugee receives in a camp in Jordan:

Refugee Week Ration Challenge 2017I get:

  • 1920 g rice
  • 400 g flour
  • 170 g lentils
  • 85 g dried chickpeas
  • 125 g tinned sardines
  • 400 g tinned kidney beans
  • 300 mL vegetable oil

Since I’m pretty active, I usually eat…a LOT more than this. I’ve eaten that entire portion of kidney beans in one sitting before. There’s a disclaimer warning you that this doesn’t meet the minimum energy standards for the average adult, and that they don’t recommend that you do the challenge for longer than a week. This is especially sad when you realise that refugees live on these amounts for years, and many of them are young growing children and pregnant women! And because of funding shortages for these programs, many refugees actually have to share ration packs or go without.

Refugee Week Ration Challenge 2017

My food is usually a lot more interesting as well. I’m not a health nut, but I was still struck by the lack of fresh vegetables and fruit. There are some extra “treats” you can earn by hitting fundraising goals (theoretically, real refugees can earn money for these by selling handicrafts):

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