IT specialist tries to live on refugee rations for a week in aid of charity

Claire Chambers of Wherstead Road, Ipswich, with a Ration Challenge poster in the background

Claire Chambers of Ipswich, who is taking part in The Ration Challenge to raise money to help refugees - Credit: Claire Chambers

An Ipswich IT worker is living on Syrian refugee rations for a week in order to raise awareness of their living conditions and help support a charity providing them with essentials.

IT support specialist Claire Chambers, 29, of Wherstead Road, hopes she might beat the total of £1,123 she raised when she entered the Ration Challenge for the first time last year. The money she raised for the Concern Worldwide initiative was enough to feed a family of seven for a year.

From June 13 to 19 she will be eating the same food rations as a Syrian refugee for one week. The ration includes a small amount of rice, flour, lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu and oil.

The money she raises will help the charity, which provides essentials like food and medical supplies to an ever-growing number of refugees who have been displaced by war and famine.

"This is my second year taking the challenge. Last year my eyes were opened to the conditions that refugees are forced to live in, which have only worsened due to the pandemic. After hearing about their struggles I wanted to do something, anything, to help and to raise awareness," she said.

The Ration Challenge rations for a week

Claire Chambers' rations for the week - Credit: Claire Chambers

She admits that she found the going tough last year but has already raised £987 towards this year's target.

"Last year there were lots of tears and hangry tantrums interspersed with manic laughing fits and some poor attempts at poetry," she said.

"This year I want to continue to help spread awareness and fundraise to bring refugees vital supplies such as food and medicine, and show them that we are all in this together. And hopefully beat last year's total.

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"The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all, but it’s these refugee communities that have been hit the hardest. Many refugees live in cramped and overcrowded conditions, with limited access to food, healthcare or basic sanitation, putting them at greater risk of infection.

"Not only that, but the impact of the lockdowns, job losses and disruption to vital aid will mean many more people will be facing devastating hunger.

"This year marks the 10 year anniversary of when conflict broke out in Syria. Since then millions of people have been forced to flee from their homes to find safety.

Those taking the challenge are provided with a ration pack to last the week, which are the same as those provided in refugee camps in Jordan. They contain 420g of rice, 170g of lentils, 85% of dried chickpeas, 120g of tinned sardines or tofu and 400g of tinned kidney beans. There are also coupons to purchase 1.5kg of rice, 400g of flour and 330ml of vegetable oil.

The additional coupons represent additional food purchased with coupons that some refugees are given by the United Nations or other organisations.

Participants can also "earn" food rewards through fundraising, such as earning one tea bag for every five people they ask to sponsor them. There are other rewards for getting £250 worth of donations, such as 170g of vegetables, which are aimed at emulating extras refugees might earn through jobs at the camps, trading, or growing their own food.

"The box doesn't provide you with enough for a nutritious diet, you get filled up on the rice, but it's really lacking in vitamins and minerals. Last year I found myself getting terrible headaches from caffeine withdrawal and hunger pains that just turned into a dull ache that remained with me for the whole week, " said Claire.

Last year the UK Ration Challenge raised £1.8m -  enough to provide food rations for 10,000 refugees for one year.

To sponsor Claire or find out more visit here 

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