Day One: Breakfast – Best meal of the day; had none! Still in shock at the contents of the food parcel! I have realised I am a food snob! A week of Asda ‘Smart Price’ certainly wouldn’t be my choice & therein is the first lesson. What value do we put on choice? Usually none – we expect to have some sort of choice, yes within our means financially but choice all the same. I attended a seminar in Dudley today so I had tea & biscuits at registration & a buffet lunch. I drove down, about £20.00 in petrol; that could buy two food parcels. Everyone thinks we’re mad doing this! I decided not to use my heating today it was really cold so I had to use two duvets. What do you do if you don’t have that option? I was up & dressed for day two in record time. I need to think creatively about how to turn this parcel of food in to a week’s meals. I didn’t realise how much I rely on ready meals. As a working mum they are an easy option. Options, choices!!!!!! Do I really think that asylum seekers make a choice to come here? What is the alternative, if living like this is their preferred choice? Day Two: Breakfast – Two pieces of toast with banana, mashed with milk & sugar & grilled.
Lunch/Tea – Boiled rice with half a green pepper chopped, fried onion & sweetcorn. No heating……brrrrrrr! At least we have the security of four walls & a roof. Each week the contents of the food parcel remain the same. I can only imagine how monotonous that becomes. Some of the asylum seekers have been living like this for two or three years. Everything is so bland!
I had the chance to talk to Hamed & Nigel about the realities of asylum. I can’t believe they are expected to pay council tax yet receive no income!!! The NHS can refuse to treat them & yet they have no money to buy over the counter remedies either. Often they have medical problems from imprisonment, torture, even rape. It is hard to record all my thoughts, there is so much going through my mind. Although I have known the basic facts about asylum I don’t think I have really considered the reality of it from the asylum seekers point of view: no family, no friends, language, homelessness, hunger, strange place, strange customs, strange clothes, strange food, different climate. A week with a red-cross food parcel & no heating is nothing by comparison but I guess we could all say what is the point? And do nothing. Can I really finish this week’s challenge & leave it at that? Day Three: Beans on toast for breakfast, rice with apple & peanuts (washed the salt off & chopped them), a Do-it-Yourself Waldorf! Chip butties for tea, no butter, no vinegar & no ketchup! Had three extra cups of tea at work & drank them all, which in itself is unusual, as I never normally get to the bottom before it’s gone cold. It has made me think about all the waste. I have eight different boxes of cereal in my cupboard, four different flavours of squash & four types of fruit tea. I keep coming back to choices. I can choose to try & make a difference in some small way when this week is over or I can choose not to, but then was it all in vain? It isn’t a vain exercise. My own preconceptions, attitudes & prejudices are all being challenged. If this achieves nothing more than making me more aware, more humane & less judgemental it has achieved something. My mind keeps going to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I have sat in so many training sessions looking at that triangle, thinking how we achieve that self-actualisation. I don’t think I have ever really considered the base of the triangle. Basic human needs…survival! There is some humour though, being upset because someone else has custard creams & brown bread! Leaving the skins on the chips & cutting them so thin I could get a job with Golden Wonder! Do I laugh or cry? It is funny but tragic. Day Four: Beans on toast for breakfast, pasta with hot dog sausages & tinned tomatoes for lunch & an Orange, Pear & semolina for tea. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed an orange quite as much! I think that there may be food left over in my parcel at the end of the week, not because I am not hungry but because nothing is appetising. There is no real flavour in anything, nothing is appealing, it’s just eating for eating’s sake! I have been challenged about why I am doing this charity begins at home & all that! What about ‘our own people’ who live below the poverty line? Just because I am doing this does not mean that I don’t recognise that we live in a less than perfect society. I am not asking everyone else to do this. I am not giving money because I don’t have that luxury either but I am doing something because doing nothing is not an option. There are so many people who rely on charitable organisations, if we each did something to help one of them then we would be living in a better society. We can’t keep blaming everything on the government & wait for changes in policy. We have to be part of the solution, one person at a time. Humanity is not a spectator sport. Day Five: Someone baked me a cake today, a little bit of human kindness when I really felt like giving up. How many times must Hamed have wanted to give up? His family were slaughtered & he walked through the desert for three weeks before coming half way around the world in a box before being denied asylum & put out on to the street. Finally a total stranger helped him get to the Red Cross. The tragedy would surely have been to have gone through all that to end up dying cold & alone on the streets of Britain, the streets of Manchester, on my street or your street. And to the man that helped him please know that acts of human kindness are priceless, may God bless you. This week becomes less & less about food for me & more & more about the realisation that one voice is better than no voice. One act of solidarity, kindness or charity is better than none. If I don’t do it who will? Will you? The world can’t be changed overnight but I can change. I have kept to not using my heating or hot water. I haven’t been in a shop & bought anything other than petrol. I haven’t used the dishwasher or the Internet, little things but big lessons. I think I am on a journey from my comfort zone to a place of empathy & greater compassion. To Mr Stringer, Mr Lloyd, Mr Leese & anyone else with political influence I urge you to try this challenge for yourselves & to speak to The Boaz Trust about the impact that Selective License fees on properties will have on this small locally based charity. I am using my small voice to ask you who have a bigger voice to speak on behalf of those who don’t have a voice at all. And to Stephen Spielberg, a big voice, thank-you for using yours today to speak out about the government of Sudan & the continuing plight of the Dafor region where Hamed comes from. A matter of conscience you said. We should all examine ours. Day Six: Today I felt really ill, I couldn’t face eating anything else out of the parcel. Eating is a sensory pleasure or at least it is supposed to be. The food in the parcel is bland & pretty much all white. FOOD SHOULD LOOK, SMELL & TASTE APPETISING!!!!! I ended up having one meal today which mum made me. I am cold & I really want a bath & to wash my hair in hot water so I put the heating on for an hour. I don’t think I have enjoyed a bubble bath quite so much except perhaps after a week camping. Channel M have asked to come & film us all tomorrow. I am worried that it seems a bit unfair that the paper & the T.V. are showing us when there are others doing the challenge but Nigel assured me that anything that raises the profile is good I am giving everything we have left back to Nigel to take to the houses but it seems like much too little. Where are they supposed to get toiletries, sanitary products, baby milk? I am challenged to do more. Day Seven: Channel M news came & Hamed told his story again, it is heart breaking to hear. I really would like to meet the man that helped Hamed, I wonder if he knows that he probably saved his life? How many times have I walked past someone on the street or even worse crossed over? This has been a humbling experience, a challenging one & one that will stay with me. What I do now will have to take some serious thinking & praying, all I know is that it can’t stop here.