Students and teachers at St John Paul II College in Nicholls will be eating like a refugee for a week in solidarity with children who are living as refugees.
Leading up to World Refugee Day on 20 June, 14 students and four teachers will be living off a box of rations containing the same quantities as those distributed to Syrian refugees in camps in Jordan – just a small amount of rice, beans, chickpeas, lentils, fish, oil and flour.
While those participating will have the opportunity to add extra ingredients such as milk and vegetables as they hit fundraising goals, the Ration Challenge is designed to reflect as closely as possible what it’s like to live off food rations as a refugee.
The money raised from the Ration Challenge will provide emergency food, healthcare, and life-saving support to Syrian refugees in Jordan, including families hit hardest by the coronavirus.
Year 8 student Zara Pathan is participating in the challenge for the second time, after raising $250 in 2020.
She said she was inspired to participate in the challenge after hearing about it in her Social Justice group.
“I wanted to raise awareness for what is going on in the outside world because, yes we get the news, but we don’t really know what it feels like until we put ourselves in their shoes,” Zara said.
“It was a really fun experience; it was a bit hard, but I got through it.”
According to Act for Peace, an international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia, nearly 80 million people are living as refugees in communities that, even before the current pandemic, experienced high levels of food insecurity.
In 2020, Year 10 student Mahi Agarwal participated in the Refugee Experience, an overnight challenge where the students camp like a refugee overnight.
She said she wanted to try the Ration Challenge this year to gain a more in-depth experience of living like a refugee over an extended time, especially following the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want to participate because I know my privileges,” Mahi said.
“They [refugees] shouldn’t suffer, so I wanted to share that with them. It’s not fair that we get all this stuff, we get everything we need handed to us and they don’t get anything.”
Open to all ages, some of the teachers at St John Paul II College are also participating in the challenge to show their support and to help set an example for the students.
Teacher Shaylie Maskell has never participated in the Ration Challenge before and admitted she was a little nervous about the lack of variety in the diet. However, she said it was important for both the teachers and students to take on the challenge.
“I think it’s important for other students to see that it’s not just teachers that think it’s a good thing to do … I think they’ll have a bit more respect for the program when they see their friends doing it as well,” she said.
“This is a good chance to actually be in their shoes.”
With just over $7,800 raised, the students of St John Paul II College are hoping to reach over $10,000 to make a difference to those in need.
To register for the Ration Challenge, visit schools.rationchallenge.org.au