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The Ration Challenge: Change Starts Here!

The Ration Challenge: Change Starts Here!

Ration ChallengeAre you hungry for change? Don’t know where to start to make a difference in this world? Me either. But I am lucky enough to have connected with CWS (I’m on the board) and their partner, Australian-based Act for Peace, so I can take on the challenge of eating the rations of a Syrian refugee for one week. More on the Ration Challenge in a minute. But first…

Why???? The Refugee Crisis.

Too often we turn on the news and there is nothing but bad news. Overwhelming problems with seemingly no solutions. However….conflicts that have the potential to divide us could actually lead us to meaningful impact, meaningful change were we to unite. The crisis in Syria has been going on for more than 8 years. During that time, hundreds of thousands have been killed and cities have been reduced to rubble. The numbers are staggering. Millions of men, women and children around the world have been forced out of their homes because of conflict or natural disaster. They desperately need somewhere to resettle and rebuild their lives, but there aren’t enough countries willing or able to respond to that need. Refugees spend an average 27 years in camp

It’s a humanitarian crisis on an unprecedented scale. And one that we can, and must, respond to.

A Family Displaced

If you dig deeper than the headlines, you will find that the 25 million displaced beyond their own country’s borders are just like us. They are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters. And they want to NOT worry about food or a roof over their heads. They want to work so they can send their children to school. Right now, if they are “lucky,” they will find a refugee camp in a nearby country. Global humanitarian relief agencies, CWS among them, provide aid to these refugees. Ration kits top the list of critically needed aid. Boxes are delivered to camps and are packed to feed a family of six for a one-month period. Often there aren’t enough boxes to service the entire camp, so a committee of volunteer refugees makes the difficult decision on deciding which families need it most.

ration deliveries

Receiving the Rations

 What is the Ration Challenge?

The Ration Challenge is a global campaign to raise awareness and funds by eating the rations of a Syrian refugee living in Jordan for one week. It gives only a glimpse of refugee life. My ration kit is like those delivered to camp, except it’s just for me and just for one week. Unlike those in camps, I have a place to live, am not recovering from recent trauma and I not only know that my family is alive, I know where they are.  Here is what my kit looks like and what’s on the menu for the upcoming week.

rice rice rice

 I started yesterday with mujadara. It’s normally rice and lentils and a whole lot of flavor from onions and spices, but this is just rice and lentils. I have already eaten it four times in two days. The photo on the right is the mujadara from my blog. Remember how great the house smelled after fixing that delicious dish? It’s a far cry from plain rice and lentils. To be fair, I am able to use salt and pepper. These are two treats I have earned by raising money. These fundraising incentives – or rewards – allow me to add a few items throughout the week – one vegetable, a 4-ounce protein, a 12-ounce beverage. I don’t talk about the rewards much because this is not about me. But the Ration Challenge creators have cleverly added these incentives to symbolize the resilience and resourcefulness of refugees. If allowed by local laws, refugees hustle to complete odd jobs, trading and selling handcrafts, so that they can supplement their rations. 

mujadara before and after

How Can You Help?

This campaign raises awareness from all of us that talk about it. It increases empathy and understanding by (simulating) walking in their shoes for a mere nano-second. But so importantly, it raises funds to be part of the solution. I am grateful to the many who have already donated to this campaign. My very generous friends, colleagues, followers and family have raised enough to provide access to life-saving medical specialists for more than 330 people!!! I repeat – for 330 PEOPLE!! Wouldn’t it be great if we could make it a nice round 500? Or in food terms, it would only take a few more donations to provide 20 Syrian refugees food for an entire year!! All money raised goes to providing food, education and medical care, as well as support the ongoing work of CWS to help vulnerable people rebuild their lives in safety. Can you please join me in supporting this life-changing cause with your tax-deductible donation??!!

Beware I'm HangryOne of my dear friends and fellow CWS board member Vy Nguyen is himself a refugee, fleeing from Vietnam at the age of four on the back of a motorbike, while leaving half his family behind. He recently wrote a piece for the San Francisco Chronicle that breathtakingly recounts his harrowing journey, all juxtaposed against the lessons he hopes to teach his own four-year-old today. Lessons of empathy and compassion. Prayers that his son not only knows what it means to belong, but how to welcome the stranger among us. ❤️

25 million. That’s the staggering number of those internationally displaced. As a statistic its unimaginable. But lest we forget, it is made up entirely of individual people and families, all with stories of endless suffering and brave endurance in the face of life-threatening challenges. They are us. We are them. Just under a different set of circumstances. My tiny glimpse into their lives through rationing has increased my empathy 1000-fold. 

Refugee in Jordan

I appreciate the compassion and care that my community here at Palate. Passion. Purpose. shares. I thought you’d love this bumper sticker I pinched from a fellow challenger on Facebook. Doesn’t it say it all?

longer table

Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to this cause near and dear to my heart. And no matter what, please share your support via the comments below!! Thank you!!!

Photos in addition to mine are courtesy of CWS, The Ration Challenge, and Act for Peace.

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2019. All rights reserved.

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Giving Thanks and Giving Back: Cupcakes for a Cause

Giving Thanks and Giving Back: Cupcakes for a Cause

It’s been a couple of a weeks and I’m still not sure which was cuter – the cupcakes or the girls making them. I had the rare opportunity to visit the monthly meeting of the minds of Team ChloElla J, a band of merry thirteen year-olds (Juliette is now 14) who gather together for their scheduled session to pay it forward. Palate, Passion, AND Purpose are alive and well in this latest generation. I caught them during fall break and a day off from school. But sometimes they bake on the weekends, and sometimes until very late at night…..and once in while, ”too late” at night. Based on all the energy and effort that goes into this, you would expect a feast at the end. And while there is no doubt a feast somewhere, the feast is not theirs. They don’t bake for themselves.

Chloe, Ellary and Juliette have been friends since childhood, and, earlier this year, the girls saw an opportunity at church fundraisers (that’s right – fundraisers, plural – they go to three different churches) to auction off Cupcakes of the Month for charity. They sold the year-long 6 seasonally-themed cupcake package an amazing five times between them. Each church had different goals and the monies raised support mission work, a youth mission trip and “general churchy stuff”. She had me at “churchy stuff”. Adorable, indeed!

While the leadership is clearly shared, with hosting and shopping scheduled on a rotating basis, I had my eye on Ella. Ella is not new to paying it forward. A whole two plus years ago, at the tender age of 11, she raised $5,000 for her Let’s SHAKE Parkinson’s campaign by running a 5k. At that age, I was just trying to figure out how to pass the President’s Fitness test, never mind run 5k. Sit-ups were my strong suit. Running and the softball throw, not so much.

Let's SHAKE Parkinson's

And while I was likely still dabbling in all things Easy Bake Oven at 13 (Okay, probably not at 13, but it was the 60s and things moved a whole lot more slowly), these girls each have full professional toolkits. One has adapted a manicurist’s tackle box, replacing nail color with icing tints. Another has a Cricut Explore Air, an electronic cutting machine that precisely cuts – with embedded bluetooth for wireless cutting, of course – labels for the packaging. And the pastry tip collection between the three is unparalleled. Wowza! Impressive.

Getting the right gearThe girls FaceTime each month to get a theme. Pinterest, magazines, and baking websites provide inspiration.  I connected as Thanksgiving was being designed and created. They finally settled on turkey legs, mashed potatoes with gravy and two pies – one latticed-topped fruit and one pumpkin. Each customer gets six – so two legs, two mash, two pies.

For this holiday, the cupcakes were made from scratch – a delicious apple cinnamon batter. When I arrived, they were already cooling, and the girls were making the icing – one base, tinted as needed for the berry pie, pumpkin pie, or au natural for the turkey and mashed potatoes. And the music was jamming. Much like a professional kitchen, there was little chatter. Each girl was focused on her task at hand and looked up only to ask an opinion or show off a masterpiece.

Chloe, Ellary, and JulietteJuliette was working on mashed potatoes with a caramel gravy. Much like the real thing, the “potatoes” were piled high, a well was made, and “gravy” poured. Unlike the real thing, there was some tricky timing to get the caramel hot enough to pour well, but not so hot as to melt the “potatoes”. She poured with a deft hand.

Mashed Taters, Cupcake Style

Ella was busy creating the turkey drumsticks. She had already made a white chocolate “bone” to extend from the meaty part of the leg, and she created roast turkey “skin” by sprinkling with graham cracker crumbs.
Turkey Leg Cupcakes

That left Chloe to tackle the pies.  She needed fondant for the lattice crust and the pumpkin pie trim. And of course, she makes her own – stretching and rolling a marshmallow fondant to keep the sugar pliable, yielding a dough-like consistency.

Rolling, Stretching, TrimmingOnce the fondant is rolled, Chloe cuts it in thin strips and weaves it together just like a lattice topped pie. But no further baking required – she has used her marshmallow fondant.  For the pumpkin pie, she uses two cutters – the larger one fluted and one slightly smaller that is not. It was impressive to see that each girl had her own technique to fulfill her vision. Crumbs, fondant, caramel: each used in a unique way.

Plenty of PiesIt’s clear they enjoy what they are doing. And they have learned a lot. They have gone from basic to “pretty cool”. I’ll add a “very cool” of my own. Watching the camaraderie and flashes of pure joy was inspiring. Knowing that they are supporting their community is heart-melting. You can’t help but know for sure that despite their small town experience, they have a global perspective. They expand their own horizons every time they turn on the oven.

And when they are done, they dance.

Wishing these girls, their families, and you a joyous and food-filled Thanksgiving.


From the ChloElla J portfolio – now taking orders!

Teddy's on the Beach, On theGrilll, and Spooky Halloween August: Teddies at the Beach;  Burgers on the Grill for “Uncle Dan’s” birthday; October: Six Spooky Designs

Back to School, Minions, and S'moresSeptember: Back to School Apple for the Teacher; Custom order: Minions; and my personal favorite for a youth group outing: S’mores with tootsie roll logs and hard candy flames.

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2015. All rights reserved.

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