This year from June 16-22, I participated in Ration Challenge USA. For this one week, I ate the same things a refugee in Jordan would receive in their own ration packs, along with a few earned bonuses. The total rations were 4 lbs 2 oz rice, 14 oz protein, 1-3.75 oz can of sardines, 1-15 oz can of kidney beans, 6 oz dried lentils, 3 oz dried chickpeas, and 12 oz vegetable oil. For bonuses I received 1 tea bag for every 5 people I messaged (about 50 total), 1 unlimited spice for self-donating (cinnamon), unlimited salt for raising over $200, 1-6 oz vegetable for raising over $400 (onion), 1-5 oz fruit for posting a picture with my team and our ration boxes (avocado), and 2 oz sugar for posting a team video (GO TEAM CHERRYDALE!).
This was the first year the Ration Challenge was brought to the United States. The Ration Challenge team also created a Facebook group and the outcome was… interesting. First, many people complained about not receiving a ration box and then complained about not being able to participate because they didn’t receive the rations. When signing up, the first 10,000 people received “ration packs” any participants beyond that needed to purchase their own rations, which amounted to less than $10. This was all on the website and signing up did not cost any money. It seems that many of these commenters wanted some free food and didn’t really care about the cause. Anyone who could afford to purchase food for a week could afford to participate and when people complained there were multiple offers from other participants to Venmo them $10 so they could join the cause. Second, as we went through the challenge together, many people could not complete the challenge due to various health complications. Our Facebook group was generally encouraging and helped us remember how difficult, but friends of the participants were sometimes negative calling paticipants weak for being unable to complete the challenge. Third, the positive posts were incredibly helpful and motivating as I went through the week. Despite some annoyance from others’ negativity or ignorance expressed through their posts, it was encouraging to see posts and comments from people who are going through the challenge and those who have more knowledge of the living conditions of refugees.
Throughout the week, I ate rice as the main portion of most meal. My office bought Chickfila for lunch on my second day because a new employee was starting; I ate lentil soup. Our anniversary dinner was flatbreads (water, flour, salt) and avocado hummus (chickpeas, avocado, oil). At the end of the week I had maybe 3 cups of rice, 2 oz of lentils, and a lot of tea left over. I wouldn’t have had any left over if I would have realized that I could have had more the first few days. I was very hungry. Even when I was full, I was not satisfied and I was hungry again just an hour later. I had a difficult time focusing on work. I slept poorly and went to bed at 9pm each night. Some days I would have rather not eaten. I ate the rice anyways because I knew my body needed it. After the challenge ended, I tried to eat light and healthy. I wanted to give my body the nutrients it needed but missed the previous week. I tried to be careful with eating heavy or fatty foods, but it didn’t matter. My body started to become sick until it once again became used to the nutrients.
I only ate rations for a single week. I still lived in my home. I still went to my job. I still had most of my daily comforts. My experience in no way adequately represents the experiences of refugees. Refugees leave everything the know and love behind and flee with their families. They leave the war-torn country they once called home. They pray for peace so one day they might be able to return. They live in tents and temporary housing for years, waiting to be able to enter another country and reestablish their lives. They eat rations for years. Some children have eaten rations their entire lives. Refugees are thankful for the little food they get so they can use the money they have to buy other necessities like clothing or educational supplies.
If anyone wants to help, they can donate to at my fundraising link: my.rationchallengeusa.org/ctannar. This link is open through the end of August. You can donate directly to Church World Service to support their efforts. If you cannot afford to donate, you can also keep the refugees and these war torn countries in your prayers.
Finally, thank you to everyone who has donated to my or Ryan’s fundraising efforts: Mom, Dad, Heidi, Ashley, Tanya, Tami, Kamron, Stephanie, Braeley, Venise, Justin, Brenda, Sherri, and Maisa. Together, we raised over $550.