This past week I participated in the Oxfam Ration Challenge where I ate nothing but the same rations as provided by Oxfam to Syrian Refugees for seven days. The idea behind the ration challenge is of course to raise money and awareness about the refugee crisis but also as an act of solidarity to show the refugees we are with them and not against them.
The rations pack provided consisted of flour, rice, chickpeas, lentils, beans and vegetable oil.
I was doing the vegan version so I was allowed to purchase some tofu, plus you can pick a spice for the week which for me was smoked paprika. I also spent some time coming up with a bit of a strategy to make sure i didn’t go hungry towards the end of the week.
I made flatbreads in batches to last me a few days and I would get up early each morning to make enough spicy rice to get me through till bed time. One thing I noticed was that it was quite time consuming and meant I had to get up at least an hour earlier for work each day to make sure I had everything prepared and packaged.
I decided I would put my money and my mouth where my heart was and kick off my charity drive with a $1000 donation to set the tone for what I was hoping to achieve.
The first couple of days I had a splitting caffeine withdrawal headache, and was basically wiped out by about 4pm. I had to bail home from work early (not that i was being very productive there anyway) and crawl into bed for super early nights on both Monday and Tuesday.
The headache dissipated by Wednesday morning and I worked hard to embrace the routine of eating pretty much the same thing every meal while trying to get through the day as best I could. There was a lot of carbs, not much protein, no fruit or vegetables and only water to drink which left me with quite serious brain fog, short attention span and hardly any capacity to focus or concentrate.
About 5 days into the challenge I started to develop this love hate relationship with my meals and while I was sick of eating the same spicy rice twice a day I found my self super excited when meal time rolled around.
Work was definitely a huge challenge with my diminished brainpower and energy. My company is right in the middle of working on some really important and formative projects which and my team really helped carry me through the week to keep everything moving along.
By day six (Friday) my brain was pretty much a potato, but the universe wouldn’t let me get off easy. I had the fantastic opportunity to talk with the European Union’s Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström about my company Encrypt S, NavCoin, Valence and Blockchain.
I somehow managed to get through that meeting without having an aneurysm or letting my brain fog get the better of me and really engaged her and her entourage in a great conversation about blockchain, what we do at Encrypt S, our journey so far and our path forward.
Feeling relieved I went home to rest and reflect on the week as my final day of the challenge approached.
Over the week the donations steadily grew and I climbed the rankings on the leaderboard. I spent a lot of time documenting my journey on social media and publishing short video’s and photos to encourage people to support me and donate to the cause. You can see the full weeks worth of pictures and videos on my instagram account:
I also retweeted a lot of my content through the NavCoin twitter account which has around 50,000 followers in an effort to maximise awareness about the cause.
My hard work paid off. By the time I woke up on Sunday morning at the end of the Ration Challenge I was ranked 10 on the leaderboard raising over $2000 in total.
I published a final call for any donations to my social channels and I received an amazing boost of $1200 from an anonymous donor which pushed me to rank #1 on the leaderboard. Whoever you are, you are an absolute legend. That was a truly amazing and generous thing to do!
Feeling both starving and elated I headed out to get a delicious brunch to celebrate the end of the challenge and raising enough money to provide the bare necessities to 25 families for an entire month.
All in all it’s been a hard but rewarding week. I posted this message to my facebook page to close out the challenge with a reflection of the insight I gained over the week by introspecting on my experience.
I’ve been thinking long and hard about my experience doing the Oxfam Ration Challenge and I have some closing thoughts I’d like to share as my journey ends.
I won’t kid anyone, I did find this week tough even though as I was doing it I knew there was an end to it and that I could always walk away from it whenever I wanted. As difficult as my week’s been it simply pales in comparison to what an actual refugee has to go through. They can’t walk away. They have much worse conditions and way more difficult situations to contend with than I will probably ever experience.
I think with the level of detachment our society requires perhaps it’s less painful for people to compartmentalise refugees as different to themselves and just think “oh maybe they’re used to poverty or something so it’s not so bad relatively for them”. But the uncomfortable reality is refugees are REAL PEOPLE who had lives and families, jobs and houses, hopes and dreams, hobbies and passions, educations and friends. They love and learn and feel and experience the world in all of its colour and an unfair share of it’s darkness. All that and more. They are exactly like me, they are exactly like you. They ARE me and you, except only in circumstance.
It’s impossible to comprehend how hectic it must be to have your whole realm of existence literally destroyed, be displaced and marginalised while attempting to grapple with a seemingly and more often than not literally hopeless situation.
Our day to day lives, no matter how hard they seem are a literal paradise in comparison to what most of the world has to contend with. Although i don’t really have any frame of reference, even just knowing i cant comprehend how difficult it must be stirs a deep empathy inside of me and a desire to do what i can to help whoever i have the power to help in this crazy messed up world.
All i cling onto in the face of the abyss is the knowledge that everyone has the capacity for compassion and the hope that they can find the same ember in their heart as I have found.
We have to accept that we can’t sit back and do nothing. No one is going to fix the world for us, we have to be accountable and at least try to fix it for ourselves. We are capable and we are powerful. If everyone did even just whatever few small things may be within their means to improve the situations of those around them, we would quickly find the darkness in this world swept away by a great tide of positive change.
I’m so happy I was able to do something that truly helps people who are in such a dire situation. The response to my donation drive was nothing short of amazing. I am truly humbled everyone’s generosity. A massive thank you to all the people who donated and supported me throughout the week. I couldn’t have done it without you.
You are the real heroes!