Young New Zealanders dedicate 40 hours to refugee children
Imagine cramming your entire life into a tiny backpack, packing nothing more than a few essential items that you need to survive. Then carrying that backpack through war zones, across countries, sometimes continents, in search of a safer land, leaving behind family, friends, food, shelter and life as you knew it.
This is the reality for millions of children who have been forced from their homes by the brutal civil war in Syria since it started five years ago. This is the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time, 4.6 million Syrians are refugees, and 6.6 million are displaced within Syria; half are children. Those children who were forced to flee their homeland are now risk of becoming a “lost generation” – facing early marriage, child labour and recruitment into armed groups.
More than 100,000 young Kiwis will for one weekend step into the shoes of refugees when they take part in this year’s 40 Hour Famine, to raise money for the Syrian children affected by the civil war.
The 40 Hour Famine runs over 10-12 June and is dedicated to 40 hours for refugee children, with the weekend’s hero challenge One Weekend, One Backpack seeing participants swap everyday luxuries for essential items that they can carry in one backpack.
World Vision New Zealand CEO Chris Clarke visited Syrian refugees and witnessed the effects of the crisis on children first-hand with the Forgotten Millions campaign.
“I saw and talked with so many children who had fled safe, beautiful lives. I just couldn’t help but think of my own sons and how they would cope, how our family would cope.
“The 40 Hour Famine has always been about living in someone else’s shoes and this year is no different. Young people from around New Zealand are taking their own steps towards helping the children affected by the conflict in Syria, to build them a brighter future.”
Funds raised during this year’s 40 Hour Famine will go towards developing child-friendly spaces in Jordan – home to more than 600,000 Syrian refugees. The spaces provide safe learning environments where children can recover from the trauma of war through sports, arts and play, restart their education, and rebuild their lives in a supportive environment.
Actress Kimberley Crossman and The Edge Smash! 20 host Marty Hehewerth have recently returned from Jordan where they visited Azraq refugee camp and met Syrian families forced to flee their homes, experiencing the challenges refugees face.
“It was the most eye-opening experience I’ve ever had. At Azraq Refugee Camp, which currently has about 40,000 occupants with hundreds more arriving each day, I saw how much of a positive impact the World Vision team is having on the quality of life,” says Crossman.
“But, I felt overwhelmed that this situation even has to exist for these families who don’t at all deserve it, nor ever asked for it. I wouldn’t survive a night in a camp let alone having to come to the realisation that this might be home for a long while yet,” she adds.
Kimberley and Marty will join thousands of Kiwis living out of backpacks during the 40 Hour Famine weekend, including seven other celebrities fundraising for World Vision.
The celebrity teams this year are; Marty Hehewerth and Steph Monks from The Edge Smash! 20, Grace Palmer, Jayden Daniels and Reuben Milner from Shortland Street, Eve Palmer and Adam Percival from the Adam and Eve Show and Kimberley Crossman and TV presenter Shannon Ryan.
“We invite Kiwis to dedicate just 40 hours of their lives to helping Syrian children – raising funds to help restore what they’ve lost, things we often take for granted; education, a sense of security and safety and most importantly, the chance to be kids again,” says Clarke.
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