INDONESIAN migrant Mira Tedjo was never forced to flee her country and become a refugee, but she does know what it’s like to eat like one.
During Refugee Week from June 18 to 24, Ms Tedjo and many other Catholics across the country took up the Ration Challenge by Act for Peace, an international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia.
The challenge invites people to eat like a Syrian refugee living in a camp in Jordan while raising money to help send extra food to camps around the world.
As a participant in the challenge, Ms Tedjo, who came to Australia by choice as a teenager 14 years ago, received a 1.5kg box of rations to last for one week.
The box included lentils, rice, chickpeas, kidney beans, sardines and vegetable oil – all of which are the food typically served to refugees in Jordan.
Recipes from the refugees were also given to participants as part of the challenge.
Wanting to “do it tough” for the refugees, Ms Tedjo also sacrificed eating items participants could earn through specific milestones or bought separately, like spices, coffee and flour, because they are considered luxury foods in refugee camps.
There were withdrawal headaches and fatigue on the first day, and within days she could feel her immune system weakening.
“Doing this Ration Challenge actually brought down my immune system,” Ms Tedjo said.
It was an experience that has brought the Catholic parishioner from Annerley in union with millions of refugees around the world.
“I didn’t realise until I cooked the whole meal for the whole week how little they really are served after I portioned it,” Ms Tedjo said.
“I thought if the refugees are really going to eat that little I will sacrifice myself and raise some funds for them, and I won’t quit because we live a good life and we can eat whatever we want here.
“I can’t imagine, how can they (the refugees) eat so little, being an adult, eating one takeaway container – and it’s not even full – for the day?”
At times when she wanted to quit, Ms Tedjo took inspiration from the sacrifices made by one of the Church’s greatest friends to the poor, St Teresa of Kolkata.
“I just think Mother Teresa is a great role model for doing this. I mean, she would be doing the same thing,” she said.
Ms Tedjo shared her Ration Challenge journey on Facebook, inviting people who liked her posts to donate to the cause.
After three days, Ms Tedjo raised $570 for Act for Peace, raising more than $300 in just one day.
Her fundraising amount on her Ration Challenge account now stands at over $800.