Yesterday was my first day starting the Ration Challenge 2020, when I’ll be living on the same food rations as a Syrian refugee in a camp for the week.
Concern UK, the charity running the Ration Challenge, sent boxes of the basic rations to people taking part, once they’d raised their first donations. Then you need to top up your ration box with an extra 400g flour and 1.5kg rice.
Oil, flour, a few chickpeas and lentils, a single tin of kidney beans, one tin of sardines and rice, so much rice. Plus the chance to earn rewards from fundraising, including a spice, salt, a bit of milk and small quantities of veg and a protein.
That’s it. For a week, from 13 to 19 September.
You may remember me taking the Ration Challenge last year, when I posted about taking the Ration Challenge, my first day, half way through and meals. It was tough – and I only had to cope for a week. I cannot begin to imagine what it’s like to for the refugees for whom it’s a daily reality, year in, year out. I had no wish at all to repeat the experience.
But this year, the conditions the camps are even worse, due to Covid-19. I figured that if I did the 2020 Ration Challenge, even if I only donated some money myself, it would help towards food, hygiene kits, emergency supplies and other support provided by Concern UK.
So here I am again.
Above, I’ve attempted to record a video unboxing my rations for 2020, and here’s a link to my fundraising page.
Meals on the first day
Breakfast: Fried rice
Apparently, congee, a kind of rice porridge, is enjoyed by millions of people for breakfast each morning.
Me? Not so much.
So I started Day 1 of the Ration Challenge with plain boiled rice, which fried to see if that would make it nicer.
Spoiler alert: it didn’t.
I also really missed my normal cup of tea, replaced by a mug of warm water.
Lunch: Fried rice with kidney beans
With such limited rations, I’m wary about using too much protein too early, and running out of food later in the week. So I eked out 45g of kidney beans from the tin, heated up with the remains of the boiled rice from this morning. Chucked some chilli flakes in to see if it would make a difference.
It was fine. With limited ingredients, it’s hard to make anything taste of much.
Dinner: Flatbreads and lentils
Normally, my husband makes pizza on Saturday nights, for a family movie night. This week, I asked him to switch the pizza making extravaganza to Sunday instead, so I wouldn’t have to cook for everyone else while starting the Ration Challenge.
I steered well clear of the kitchen and came down later to make flatbreads from 100g of my flour and a bit of water. Split into four chunks and rolled super thin, it made couple for tonight’s meal, and a couple to store in a biscuit tin to eat another day. Flatbreads reheat pretty well in a toaster 🙂
I also set 60g of lentils boiling for about 20 minutes, with a few more chilli flakes. Again, it made half a portion for dinner, and half a portion for another day. The Ration Challenge ingredients aren’t exactly ‘grab and go’, so if you want anything without waiting for it to cook, you need to plan ahead.
So: flatbreads and lentil dip for dinner. It was fine. But it wasn’t pizza.
First day on the Ration Challenge 2020
This is just one long whinge.
I was not looking forward to the Ration Challenge. It’s bleak.
I missed my morning cup of tea, and rice is never going to top my list of ‘favourite breakfasts’.
The highlight of the day was heading over to see the grandparents in the morning, as my husband’s aunt and uncle were visiting. We all sat outside chatting in the sunshine, while the kids and the dog ran round in circles. I drank tap water.
Back at home, I took my lunch of rice and kidney beans back out into the garden, so I wasn’t surrounded by temptation in the kitchen. I was wiped out in the afternoon with a splitting headache (caffeine withdrawal? sugar withdrawal? hormonal? who knows). Faced with the rest of the week eating rations, I was so close to cracking and quitting.
But I was really touched to get a donation from a friend I haven’t seen since uni days (many thanks Tom!) and an email from a blog reader, who is also doing the Ration Challenge (good luck Heather!).
It reminded me why I decided to do the Ration Challenge in the first place. I am incredibly, unbelievably lucky to have my own home and garden, with my family around me, and food to feed them. I have clean water, clothes, access to cooking facilities – all the basic essentials of living, that refugees have to leave behind when fleeing to camps.
Here I am whingeing, but any sponsorship goes to people who really need it. For me, it’s only a week, not a daily reality, year in, year out.
I may not be able to do much, but I can donate some money myself. I’ve been diverting token payments I’m offered for work ‘to be paid to you or the charity of your choice’.
If you can spare something, it really does help. The money goes to provide food, hygiene kits, emergency supplies and education for refugees, plus Concern UK’s wider work combatting poverty and hunger. £25 pays for two medical visits. £39 feeds a refugee for three months. Every pound makes a difference.
Here’s my fund raising link, if you can: https://www.rationchallenge.org.uk/faith-archer