World Refugee Day

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June 20 is World Refugee Day. The day honors, respects and brings awareness to refugees around the world. The United Nations designated the day in 2001 to celebrate the strength, courage and resiliency of people forced to flee their homes due to conflicts and persecution.

It’s also a time to deepen compassion and empathy for those who are displaced and to recognize their efforts to rebuild their lives.

Read on for more information about the current plight of refugees worldwide. And to learn what I did to help this year.

Word Refugee Day title meme

Facts About Refugees

A person forced to leave his or her country due to war, persecution, disasters or violence is a refugee. Every minute, 20 people flee their homelands.

By the end of 2020, 82.4 million refugees remained displaced worldwide. More than half of the refugees are children. The number of people seeking asylum is high. Just last year, another 1.1 million people submitted requests for asylum.

Currently more than 6 million refugees live in camps. Although not meant to be permanent, some refugees live in camps for years. Basic needs are met there, such as food, water, shelter, medical care and emergency services.

Turkey hosts the most refugees, with 3.6 million living there currently. Columbia shelters 1.8 million who have fled from Venezuela.

Over two thirds of all refugees come from five countries: Syria with 6.6 million, Venezuela with 3.7 million, Afghanistan with 2.7 million, South Sudan with 2.3 million and Myanmar with 1 million.

This year’s theme for World Refugee Day is inclusion. Together, we can achieve anything.

World Refugee Day refugees
World Refugee Day – 82.4 million people are displaced

What I Did to Help This Year

I discovered a way to help refugees this year. I participated in a challenge sponsored by Church World Service (CWS). CWS is a faith based organization that transforms communities around the world through just and sustainable responses to hunger, poverty, displacement and disaster.

The Ration Challenge began Sunday June 13 and concluded Saturday June 19.

There are three parts to the challenge.

Raise Money

I set up a fundraising page through CWS and began to share my goals and intentions via social media. Sponsoring myself with an initial donation ensured I received my ration package in the mail.

I set a goal of raising $679. Those funds feed three refugees in camps for a year.

It was important for me to express to others why I wanted to do a ration challenge.

My reasons include:

  • raising awareness of refugees, their struggles and also their resilience
  • learning what it’s like to be in their situation by experiencing it on a small scale. I wanted the eye opening experience. And I wanted to shift my perspective, enlarge it and then respond.
  • being an example. I felt confident asking for donations because I was willing to donate also and to share in the experience of eating rations for a week.
  • putting actions with my words is important to me. Walking the talk, stepping up, making a difference were all motivating factors.
World Refugee Day fundraising page
World Refugee Day – fundraising page


Eat Rations

By sponsoring myself with an initial donation of $100 before May 27, I received a ration box identical to what adult Syrian refugees receive. The box contained one week of rations: a can of kidney beans, 6 ounces of lentils, 15 ounces of white rice, 3 ounces of dried chickpeas and four coupons. The coupons replicate what a refugee receives. They are traded for food.

My coupons allowed me to add to my rations: 7 1/3 cups of additional rice (I chose brown rice), 3 cups of flour (I used gluten free flour), 12 ounces of oil (I used my Almeria Gold olive oil) and because I am vegan, I received a coupon for 3.75 ounces of tofu, rather than the standard can of sardines. I don’t eat tofu either so I substituted another protein, 3.75 ounces of red beans.

On Sunday morning, June 13, I began the challenge by eating only the ration food and drinking only water. Included in my box of rations was a booklet containing recipes created by refugees. The book proved so helpful. And it contains personal stories of refugees. Check out my experience doing the challenge, below.

World Refugee Day rations
World Refugee Day – a week’s rations

Save Lives

The money raised through the Ration Challenge helps in two ways.

First, by providing emergency assistance to meet people’s most urgent needs. Life is already difficult for refugees. Now, due to the COVID pandemic, refugees are experiencing lockdowns, job losses (for those very few who are earning a small income) and disruptions to aid. Hunger is rampant.

The money funds programs that provide food rations, health care and other essential support to people who need it the most.

And secondly, money raised helps address the root cause of injustice.

We must have empathy and compassion for others. In a world where there is enough for everyone, why do some go to bed hungry at night? Empathizing with others and feeling compassion for their situations are the foundations for “charity begins at home”.

When enough people feel strongly about caring for others, then we not only help out individually (giving, reducing carbon footprint, buying ethically from sustainable companies), we ask our governments for action as well (increasing international aid budgets and supporting international aid commitments).

By experiencing the Ration Challenge, I put myself in another’s shoes for a week, increasing my compassion and empathy. By sharing my experience, I hopefully increase others’ compassion and empathy as well.

World Refugee Day - recipe booklet with refugee stories

Eating Rations

My first reaction, when I opened the tiny box of rations, was sorrow. Tears filled my eyes. It looks like a small amount of food because it IS a small amount of food. The sorrow wasn’t for myself. I felt it for the refugees.

After swapping out my coupons for the additional food, I created a meal plan.

I ate three small meals a day…breakfast, lunch and supper. No snacks, except on Day Three when I experienced gnawing hunger between lunch and supper. I used some of my brown rice and a couple of spoonfuls of flour to create rice cakes that I fried in a small amount of olive oil. Eating two rice cakes satisfied my hunger and I saved the rest for future meals.


Every morning I ate congee, a rice dish made from 1/2 cup of rice and four cups of water. Boiling the rice for 45 minutes to an hour creates a large bowl of soft…some might say mushy…rice. It is very filling and I actually like it.

World Refugee Day congee
Breakfast every day – congee


This meal typically consisted of a cup of rice and half a cup of beans or lentils. I measured everything. Even so, by the end of day two I wondered if my food would run out before the week did.

Lunch during Ration Week
A typical lunch during Ration Challenge week


I increased my food slightly in the evenings. One night I made a soup from one cup of mixed legumes, using the cooking water as broth, and added half a cup of rice. However, most evenings I ate a cup of rice with half a cup of beans or lentils and added a small flatbread or rice cake on the side.

Rice cakes
Rice cakes made from one cup of cooked brown rice and two tablespoons of flour, fried in a little olive oil.


During Ration Challenge Week, it’s possible to earn rewards.

Refugees are resourceful and hardworking. Most are not allowed to have jobs, due to countries protecting local job markets. However, they find other ways to provide for their families. Funds from the challenge support livelihood programs in Jordan that help provide a small income for refugees.

The rewards allow participants to earn more food due to their hard work during fundraising.

Making a donation yourself earns an unlimited amount of one spice.

Inviting others to contribute, whether they do or not, earns teabags. Five people invited to donate equals one teabag.

$75 – unlimited salt

$200 – a cup of milk.

$400 – 6 ounces of one vegetable

$600 – 4 ounces of an additional protein.

$800 – canned tomatoes

$1,000 – one hot or cold beverage of choice

I went a bit beyond my goal of $679, earning rewards of cumin, salt, a cup of almond milk, 6 ounces of kale and I added 4 more ounces of red beans as my additional protein. Plus I earned tea for the week.

World Refugee Day kale
I was so excited to add kale to my rations on Day Five.

My Experience

Was the week challenging? Yes, although I really only experienced hunger on Day Three. After that day, my hunger subsided and my small meals sustained me.

However, by Day Five I felt tired. My energy levels were low because my calorie intake was extremely low. I had a slight headache. I took one of my grandsons out for his birthday dinner…and only drank water. It was a valuable teaching moment though as Joey and I discussed what life is like for refugees.

From Day One I expressed gratitude, thankfulness for the food I ate, thankfulness for the goodness of people who care for others. And daily, almost hourly, my thoughts turned again and again to refugees and what they experience.

By Day Seven, I admit I was glad to finish the challenge. Although I like brown rice, after eating rice three times a day for a week, I grew tired of it. But that brought my attention back to the refugees. My challenge week was ending. Their days and weeks go on…and on…and on…often for years. As a result, I’ll eat a meal of rice and beans at least once a week, to remain mindful.

How Others Can Help

I truly am grateful for the experience of the Ration Challenge. And I’m so incredibly thankful for those who contributed to this fundraiser and who left me encouraging notes.

Here are ways you can help:

  • look for refugee owned businesses in your cities and support them
  • watch a documentary on refugees, listen to podcasts, read books…all to learn more about the way they live and the lives they’ve left behind
  • speak up for government policies that support the rights of refugees
  • be mindful of the food you eat by not wasting any of it, by shopping sustainably and by sharing with others when you can
  • become a sustaining partner with CWS and make helping refugees a part of your monthly budget. Even a small amount each month helps such as the cost of a cup of coffee each week or one lunch or dinner out. Sign up here. Or you can make a one time donation on that site as well.

And…join me next year in the Ration Challenge. I want to create a team. Location and distance don’t matter, we connect via the internet and social media. Team up with me so that together, we can do more to help others. If you are interested, let me know in the comments below or send me a message. I’ll contact you next year…I promise!

Goal Met
World Refugee Day – goal met



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A Message From My Heart

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Things are changing quickly, aren’t they, in the world at large and in our own personal worlds. In the last 48 hours, I’ve witnessed shortages of paper products, cleaning supplies, hand soap, hand sanitizer and even toothpaste in my hometown of Joplin.

This afternoon I watched people purchase “alternatives” to toilet paper such as boxes of tissues and large packages of paper dinner napkins. Why? Because empty shelves underscored the current scarcity of toilet paper.

Members of my family had their spring vacation canceled due to park closures. I received the saddest little message from my great-nephew, who intended to share his adventures with me via photos from his phone: “No photos. No Disney World.”

Events continue to shift and unfold, on an international level that then trickles down to our communities. No one will be untouched by COVID-19, even if they escape the virus itself.

I’ve thought today about what I can offer, as a blogger and as one who cares deeply about people. This is a message from my heart.

A Message From My Heart title meme

A Shift in Energy

As the virus spreads toward the midwest, I can see and feel the shift in energy. People are buying up supplies, food and medication, in case self quarantine is a necessity. Or they are stocking up to avoid the possibility of contagion by remaining at home. Our local university closed down today. Sporting events cancelled. More cancellations of all kinds are expected. Schools just let out for spring break. We will see whether they choose to remain closed afterward.

I can feel the heightened sense of fear and panic as shelves at the grocery store empty. The abundance of emotions creates a swirl of uneasiness around me that I’ve had to deal with today.

Here are some tips I’ve found helpful. I hope they are helpful to you as well.

A Message From My Heart self care
A message from my heart – practice high level self care,

Practice High Level Self Care

It starts with you and me as individuals. We are responsible for our own level of health and emotions and how we respond to situations.

Take extremely good care of yourself.

Practice meditation or yoga or breathing exercises to ease anxiety and reduce stress. Stress taxes the body by keeping it in “fight or flight” mode and that can adversely affect the immune system.

Up your level of nutrition. Eat more fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds, supplying the body with the best quality fuel so that it can perform at its highest level. Drink lots of water. Have a cup of hot herbal tea in the afternoon and take a break, breathing slowly and deeply.

Include these foods that support the immune system: citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach and other dark leafy greens, almonds, turmeric, green tea, lemon balm, papaya, kiwi, berries and shiitake mushrooms.

Get plenty of sleep, as that boosts the immune system as well. Avoid tobacco smoke and reduce alcohol consumption. And catch some rays of sunshine, for up to 15 minutes a day. Sunlight triggers the skin’s production of vitamin D, which helps to lower the risk of respiratory infections.

A Message From My Heart chopped salad
A message from my heart – up your nutrition. A chopped veggie salad makes a highly nutritious lunch.

Take Precautions

The CDC offers suggestions to better protect yourself from catching COVID-19, also called coronavirus. Remember that most who contract the virus experience mild symptoms and recover. For some older adults, or those with underlying health issues, the illness may be much more severe.

Regularly wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or longer. If soap isn’t available, use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.

Maintain a minimum six feet distance between you and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Don’t shake hands, hug or kiss others, except loved ones, and even then use caution if you’ve been in large groups or areas affected by the virus.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, especially while out in public after your hands come in contact with surfaces that others touch.

Cover your mouth and nose, with your bent elbow or a tissue, when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of tissue immediately and wash hands.

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention.

Wear a facemask IF you are sick, when around other people. If you do not have the virus, you do not need to wear a facemask, unless you are caring for someone who is sick.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.

A Message From My Heart wash your hands
A message from my heart – take precautions.

Help Others

Show compassion to others. Be kind with your words and deeds, without touching and hugging others.

Check on older adults in your family and community. They are in the highest risk category if they catch the virus. Offer to shop for them, delivering groceries and supplies to their doors. Call them frequently. People may feel isolated, staying at home more during this time. Connect with them and encourage them.

Reach out to others via social media. Some have a love/hate relationship with social media. This is a time, when used properly, that it can keep people updated, informed and connected. Post news and also post funny stories and photos, encouraging quotes and inspirational memes. I’m grateful for a means of communicating with others, that is already in place.

This isn’t a time for judgment, casting blame or feeding fear. Send healing energy and good vibes into the world. Think good thoughts. Keep your heart open and full of love and joy. Sing. Laugh. Play music. Dance.

A Message From My Heart compassion
A message from my heart – practice compassion.

A Message From My Heart

Chopping veggies this morning, for a big healthy salad, I listened to inspirational music on my iPhone and carried on a conversation with the Divine. One line in a song, “You are more than what is hurting you tonight…”, reminded me that I am more than all of this that is going on. I am more than someone who succumbs to fear or resignation.

I asked aloud, “What can I do to help, during this troubling time of uncertainty? What can I offer?”

The answer that came, formed this post. Take care of myself. Manage stress and DO NOT give fear a foothold. Do what I can, for others. Offer sincerely from my heart. Send healing energy into the world. Trust.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow or next week. I don’t know how bad it’s going to get, or how long all of this is going to last with COVID-19. However, I don’t need to give in to hopelessness or despair or fear. I am journeying onward, even if it’s from my house, well stocked with toilet paper, fruits and veggies and cat food.

Living life beyond the edges sometimes means expanding perspectives and going beyond comfort zones by shifting thoughts and beliefs. That’s an inner journey that then manifests changes in the outer world.

We are blessed that we can connect virtually. Reach out to me if you need someone to chat with or to help you slay your fears. Linking arms, figuratively, is what we do. Journey with me.

A Message From My Heart love


Check out this app, for a daily dose of encouragement and helpful articles and meditations.  And have a listen to “Beautiful” by MercyMe



Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to, all at no extra cost to you.