Students gain experience of poverty and refugee displacement

Posted on September 6, 2017

Gaining an understanding of the practical realities of poverty and displacement is an important part of developing as a global citizen. 

Two ways members of the Social Justice Group (SJG) have tried to gain a better understanding of these challenges this year is to be involved in the Live Below The Line Food Challenge and World Vision’s Backpack Challenge.  While both experiences provided only a small glimpse of the actual challenges faced, Mrs Karen Moss, Arden’s Social Justice Group Coordinator, believes they have both encouraged students to engage with the issues of poverty and displacement and to realise that they can be changemakers.

Imagine having to survive on just $2.00 a day for your life. What would it feel like?  What choices would you have to make and what would the consequences be?  These are some of the questions Arden SJG members students faced when they participated in the Live Below The Line (LBTL) food challenge.  This confronting experience challenged 30 SJG members to live for one day on just $2.00, the globally recognised line of poverty.  Mrs Karen Moss shared:  “We wanted to feel what it would be like to make those difficult food decisions.  We decided to combine our money and aim for a well-balanced meal.  So over the course of the day we each got ½ an egg, ½ a piece of wrap and one cup of watered down soup with frozen vegies in it.  The students were all shocked with how little we had to eat.  We all had to make choices about whether to eat the food in one sitting or spread out the rations.  We also experienced the physical symptoms of inadequate nourishment.  Overall it was a very confronting experience, particularly when you realise that this is an ongoing daily challenge for those in poverty.”

One of the group members, Laura Dimarco (Year 10), bravely took the challenge for five days.  Laura shared:  “Live below the Line  not only helps raise funds for developing nations, but it is also a way that we can understand and briefly experience the issue of poverty for just a few days.  LBTL was an important but challenging experience for me, but knowing that within a few days I would be back to my wide ranging diet and well stocked kitchen made it much easier.  Unfortunately this is not the case for over 896 million people around the world living under $1.90 per day.  LBTL gives us a tiny insight into the daily struggle that so many have.”

More recently a group of 15 Arden students participated in World Vision’s Backpack Challenge on 11th – 13th August and raised $5,500 for refugee and displaced children in Syria, South Sudan and neighboring countries.  This amount is roughly the equivalent of two full resourced child friendly spaces in refugee camps. 

Participants were challenged to fill their backpack with food, water, warm clothes and whatever essentials they thought they would need to get them through 40 hours.  Apart from raising much needed funds, the aim of the challenge was to help participants imagine having to pack their bags and leave everything behind to face an uncertain future.  This is the reality for more than 65 million people around the world, with more than half of these being children.  Anna Hall (Year 7) commented: “From doing this challenge I learnt a little of what life can be like for refugees.  The challenge posed different difficulties that I struggled with.  However, every time I got a donation, I felt really good knowing that I had just helped those less fortunate than me.”