Ration Challenge day 1: the gift

It’s begun! Today my brother Shane and I started Act for Peace’s Ration Challenge and we’re doing ok! Shane stayed at my house on Saturday night so that we could begin the challenge together on Sunday morning. We shared a meal of rice, lentils and kidney beans, which will pretty much be my diet for each meal this week. In the evening, however, I’ll be making some flat bread with hommus for a snack.

Normally I drink tea throughout the day, but as I only have enough rations for one tea bag a day, I drank hot water. I managed to go without today and I’m hoping the extra tea bag might come in handy later in the week.

My kids had beef stew for dinner, which I had prepared in the lead-up to the challenge to reduce the amount of food I’m cooking that I can’t actually eat.

I’ve weighed up all my rations so that I don’t run out during the week, and I’m pretty hopeful that I’ll be able to make it last.

This hope is helped by my Mum, who gave me and Shane a gift last week: a colourful crocheted placemat, which we are able to keep on our dining table as a reminder of the personal stories of refugees around the world.

Years ago, in the 90s, my mum, Rev Dr Alison Longworth, was the minister at Bunbury Wesley Uniting Church. I was a teenager at the time and not very engaged with the church – or anything other than me and my friends. But my mum and the congregation were supporting a refugee family in Bunbury who had arrived from war-torn Yugoslavia.

My mum writes:

“The mother, father and three children had been living in a refugee camp before being accepted for resettlement in Australia. I remember when they arrived the adults carried a suitcase while each child had a small bag they could carry.

“We welcomed the family into their new home and the mother immediately opened her suitcase, took out four small crocheted placemats and gave them to me. The eldest child was able to speak a few words of English and explained that her grandmother had made them in the refugee camp and sent them to thank us for assisting her family settle in this country.

“The grandmother remained in the refugee camp, perhaps she was too old to be accepted for resettlement, but she was thankful that her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren could build a new life in Australia.”

Mum was moved as she told me this story and handed over the placemat; she’s treasured this gift for many years.

How devastating for a family to leave behind their grandmother, knowing that it was the only way they could have a better life. And how lovely and generous of a grandmother; preparing a gift for people she will never meet, knowing and trusting that they will look after her family.

It’s such a powerful symbol of the real faces and stories of people around the world. People whose stories I can’t even comprehend.

The placemat certainly takes pride of place in my house this week, and will be treasured into the future.

To sponsor me visit https://actforpeace.rationchallenge.org.au/fundraisers/heatherdowling.

To sponsor Shane visit https://actforpeace.rationchallenge.org.au/fundraiser/shanedowling.

And to keep up to date with my experience throughout the challenge visit https://revivemagazine.org.au/category/ration-challenge-2016/.

Heather Dowling

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