I’m taking the Act for Peace Ration Challenge for Refugee Week

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So this is it! Here’s my food ration for the whole week, starting the Act for Peace Ration Challenge tomorrow Sunday 18 June! A huge thanks to all my sponsors! Together with other 10,000 Australians, we raised $2,199,281 (enough to feed 7,636 refugees for a year).

We’re already making a difference in these people’s lives. There’s still time to join me on this great cause. Please visit my fundraising page.

Right now, there are more refugees and displaced people around the world than at any time since World War II. It’s a humanitarian crisis.

I’m excited to be part of this challenge and experience a glimpse of what is like to survive on food rations. I’ll be eating the same rations as a Syrian refugee in Jordan – just a small amount of rice, lentils, chick peas, sardines, oil and kidney beans.

I can relate to the refugee cause as I’m a migrant myself. Originally from Argentina, I migrated twice. First to Spain (in 2000) and then to Australia (in 2004).

When I moved to Spain, I was an illegal migrant for 1 year and a half. Europe was very different back then, and I was young and fearless. My South American passport wouldn’t allow me to stay in Europe for more than 3 months.

After my first week in Madrid, I’ve found a job (an illegal job) as a secretary in a transport company. I spoke good English and that’s all they needed, as they exported meat to Russia, Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries. They interviewed me and they offered me the job on the spot. I gratefully accepted and after a year working for them, they sponsored me to get a work and residence visa, which was restricted to the Transport industry.
By the way, I’m a Graphic Designer, but if that was the way to be legal in Europe…
I was happy to speak English to Russia and Bulgaria and sell them Spanish meat every day.

Being an illegal migrant is not the same as being a refugee. I lived in a nice flat close to public transport and had a good life.

BUT… I was always scared of being caught by the authorities. I would always be looking for policemen on the streets, and walking the opposite way.
At the office, if there were any inspectors coming (the Government knew that some companies were employing illegal migrants to save costs and avoid taxes), we were supposed to literally run away from the building and go the the bar next door, order a drink or whatever and pretend to be just walking by the area.

Another issue was if I got sick… although I had access to public hospitals and medical centres… I was always scared that they would ask for my passport. So what I did, was to “loose” my passport. Then, reported that someone had robbed my bag with wallet, passport and everything to the police station. I was actually trembling with anxiety while doing this, my mind going a hundred miles an hour thinking What if they know that I’m actually illegal? while relating a robbery story to the policeman typing on a computer. I pretended I was emotional as part of the scary situation. I “lost” my passport twice.

I finally got my work and residence visa for the Transport company industry. I was legal! What a relief! Being able to get out of the country for a weekend here or there and walking the streets saying hello with a smile to policemen.
Because I was a legal resident, I could apply (only then) for my Italian citizenship.
My grandfather was Italian and had migrated to Argentina, so I could get the citizenship through him.

I stayed in Madrid for another 2 and a half years. Eventually, I got a graphic designer job (sort of illegal again, as my Transport company visa wouldn’t allow me to work on any other industry).

I finally got my Italian passport, and then I moved to Australia. (Legally).

Coming back to the main topic of this post, I could not even imagine how hard it will be for refugees, having to cope with the trauma of what they’ve experienced. They may not know where their family are, or whether they’re even alive.
Most people won’t know how long they’ll be stuck living like this, and will wonder whether they’ll ever get to go home.

Taking part in the Ration Challenge won’t give us any understanding of what these things feel like. But this small act of solidarity will give us a deeper understanding of their struggle, and will mean the world to them.

Wish me luck! I’ll tell you more about how I’m going during the next days. I already had 3 coffees today (before going on a non-caffeine week) and I’m thinking about what my last yummy dinner will be!

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