The thought of giving up coffee for a week is enough to make most people shudder, but a new fundraising challenge is asking people to do just that.

Not just coffee either. Cereal for breakfast? Nope. A sandwich for lunch? Forget it. That wine after work at the end of the week? Don't even think about it.

Instead, try living on 2kg of rice, 300g of chickpeas, 300g of lentils, 300g of flour, 425g of fish, 40g of salt and 200ml of vegetable oil for five days.

Those are rations equivalent to what someone living in a refugee camp has to survive on for a week.


It's bland, it doesn't sound appetising and it's certainly not much, but for many of the 4.8 million Syrians currently registered as refugees, it's reality.

Operation Refugee is the brainchild of Christian World Service (CWS), an organisation that provides disaster response and fundraises for countries in need.

CWS Relationship Co-ordinator David Lawson said the campaign is a twist on the better-known Live Below the Line challenge, where participants live on $2.25 a day for five days to raise awareness and funds for poverty.

Operation Refugee is in its first year and aiming to raise funds for the millions of Syrian refugees living in camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

The goal is to bring attention to the plight of the refugees by encouraging people to live on similar food rations. Unlike in real life, participants in the challenge can earn 'reward' foods. Raising $200 gets you 40g of a spice condiment, $300 one onion, an egg and a tomato, $400 a serving of greens, and so on.

Mr Lawson said the campaign is about people getting out of their comfort zone and doing what they can to make a difference.

"I live a very comfortable life in New Zealand and I don't need for much. There are people living in desperate situations in these camps, having to go at very short notice with nothing but the clothes on their backs ... no hope, no future.

"I thought - what can I do? I can't get to Syria but I can get out of my comfort zone and do something a little bit different."

CWS has no staff on the ground overseas so works through partnerships. Perhaps the longest-running one is with the Department of Service to Palestine Refugees (DSPR).

They're currently working together to help Syrian refugees with things such as education, healthcare and supplementing the UN food rations.

Grant Allen was brought on board the campaign as a chef and tasked with coming up with recipe ideas - something he admitted was a struggle with minimal ingredients.

"I looked at the box and thought, 'Oh my God, what can I do with this?'"

He said it wasn't so much the ingredients that was the issue - but how little of them there was.

"Things like chickpeas for example, you can make falafel but then you haven't got all the other bits to go with it.

"There just isn't a lot you can do with plain chickpeas, plain rice, plain lentils and a limited amount of oil and salt."

There are still spots available for this year's challenge and Mr Lawson is encouraging people to take up the opportunity to make a difference.

"It's not going to be easy, but it will be rewarding."

Operation Refugee runs from June 14-20. For more information, visit:

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