Martina is an Australian mum of one. She lives a healthy, happy life, surrounded by a loving family, good friends and supportive colleagues.
Most days, she looks at the news and despairs. Syria is in the throes of a war, and the world is witnessing a refugee crisis that seems so far away, so tragic and so hard to solve.
“I could see a time in the near future when the empathy bar would be so low it would become ‘normal’ to not feel anything [when hearing stories about refugees],” Martina told Mamamia. “I felt angry, ashamed, sick to my stomach, frustrated and helpless.”
One day, Martina saw a link on Facebook. It was a piece by international aid agency Act for Peace and it was all about The Ration Challenge. The Ration Challenge is a growing community of Australians coming together to stand up for refugees. Martina saw it as her opportunity to do something meaningful to help.
This year, even more Australians will sign up to take the Ration Challenge during Refugee Week, between June 17 and June 24.
That means one week eating the exact same rations that a Syrian refugee living in a camp in Jordan receives – just a small amount of rice, flour, lentils, chickpeas, beans, fish and oil – to help raise money and awareness for those who have left their families, their homes and their lives behind in the pursuit of a safer life.
“I thought it was a fantastic way to raise awareness among my community and made me feel as though I could make a small yet meaningful contribution,” she said, taking on the challenge. “[It] was hard to do, but…seriously? To put things into perspective a little: I have a safe, warm bed, support from my friends, family and work colleagues and a job. My family and I are healthy and safe.
“I could choose to continue the challenge or stop at any stage, unlike the relentless fear and suffering our Syrian brothers and sisters go through on a daily basis.”
The challenge itself works to raise both money and awareness to provide urgently needed food, medicine and counselling for refugees. While the challenge is only the smallest glimpse into the many struggles faced by refugees, Martina said the experience itself was powerful; an act of solidarity that also helps to provide refugees with urgently needed support.
“It made me feel in absolute awe of the people living (existing?) in war-torn countries: their resilience, determination, bravery and resourcefulness. I was equally blown away by my sponsors’ generosity and compassion: when they feel they can do something to help, they will.”
It was also a great opportunity for Martina to teach her son Liam a lesson about the world he lives in.
“I was so proud of my 12-year-old son and his desire to do whatever he could to support me,” Martina said. “The challenge put my normal, daily frustrations and stresses into sharp perspective and made me realise how incredibly lucky I am to have the life I have. It made me realise I’m capable of a lot more, and a lot stronger than I think I am, and that one person has the power to influence a number of people.”