Challenge builds unity and empathy in young people

We live in polarising times. The number of displaced people and refugees continues to rise at an alarming rate. According to UNHCR over 114 million people are displaced by war and violence globally. And yet there is more division than ever before compounded by less empathy.

A US study found empathy in college students had declined by 48% between 1979 and 2009. This deepening division in society enables decreases in international aid budgets, inadequate sharing of responsibility for the refugee crisis, climate inaction and in many cases, is even fueling conflict.

Growing research suggests young people are feeling increasingly disenfranchised – not only regarding their own future but in terms of the overall state of the world. UK organisation Young Minds, estimates 82% of young people worry about global issues like war and conflict and many are frustrated with the perceived lack of action. With the increasing threat of unfettered climate change and escalating unrest adding to an already historic level of displacement, it’s no wonder young people are feeling overwhelmed and disempowered.

But there is hope. At Act for Peace, we believe it’s possible to reduce division and create a more compassionate society. One of the ways we achieve this is by empowering young people to take action through the annual Ration Challenge. Encouraging schools, and this year youth groups, to sign up the annual fundraising event creates an opportunity for youth to make a difference in the lives of refugees.

Participants eat the same rations as a refugee living in Jordan for three to five days while raising money for emergency food, healthcare and life-changing support for those facing displacement due to conflict and disaster.

A refugee family in Jordan with their food rations.
A refugee family in Jordan with their food rations. Joel Pratley/Act for Peace

By putting themselves in the shoes of a refugee, students learn about current global issues, develop empathy and feel empowered to make a difference in the world.

According to Act for Peace CEO, Elijah Buol OAM, the Ration Challenge provides a unique opportunity for young people to be part of the movement of change.

“Humanity is limitless,” says Elijah. “The world is calling us to provide support for people in need at this time. It’s time to reflect and be part of the movement. Young people can play an important role in shaping the future and making real change in the world for people who need it most.”

Oakhill College in Sydney has been participating since the Schools Ration Challenge started with approximately 100 students signing up each year. This year the school is aiming to raise $30,000 and according to Missions Director, Roxanne Leopardi, the impact on students is significant.

“It instils a sense of gratitude for the abundance of food and resources that many people take for granted, as well as a greater appreciation for the resilience and strength of refugees who endure difficult circumstances,” says Roxanne.

“Students often see it as an opportunity to contribute to a cause they believe in and make a positive impact on the lives of others.”

Roxanne says the Ration Challenge is a unifying experience for their community.

Oakhill College students ready to take on the Ration Challenge
Students from Oakhill College preparing for the Schools Rations Challenge. Oakhill College

“The school community comes together to support a common cause and make a positive impact on the lives of refugees,” she says.

“For both communities it provides educational opportunities for students and parents to learn about topics such as food insecurity, refugee crises and humanitarian aid.

According to Oakhill College, it’s an opportunity that every school and youth group should participate in.

“Joining the Ration Challenge is a powerful way for our school to make a positive impact on the lives of refugees and contribute to a more compassionate and equitable world,” says Roxanne.

“We encourage all schools to consider taking part in this meaningful initiative.”

Last year, 2,412 people signed up to take part in Act for Peace’s Ration Challenge, raising over $445,000.

Refugee children in Jordan
From Jordan with love. Ben Littlejohn/Act for Peace

According to Act for Peace’s Community Fundraising Lead, Jessica Halliday, Challenge participants are supported along the entire journey, to maximise their experience.

“The Ration Challenge has been developed as a unique educational learning experience that offers students an incredible opportunity to reach beyond their local communities to support those facing displacement,” says Jessica.

“Once a supervisor, teacher or leader registers their students, they are supported to facilitate the challenge through content and resources.” 

Find out more or sign up your school or youth group today.

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