“The Cage” – Refugee Awareness at Saint Ignatius College Geelong.  

Senior students were offered the opportunity to raise awareness for refugees through participating in “The Cage” during Refugee Week. This activity had more than 30 students and 4 staff staying behind temporary fencing for a 22-hour period in order to raise awareness about the hardships faced by refugees. The participants stayed in “The Cage” throughout the day and slept outside on yoga mats overnight. Despite having a cold, uncomfortable sleep the students all had a lot of fun.

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During the school day many classes came to visit “The Cage”, where the students participating shared the current issues surrounding refugees and asylum seekers and how to advocate for change. There were also a number of activities at lunchtime on the day of “The Cage” including banner signing and letter writing.

Some students also participated in the “Ration Challenge” in which students were challenged to eat meals that were similar to those of refugees. This include simple ingredients like a small ration of rice, lentils, kidney beans, flour and sardines. There were more than 40 students and about 8 staff who took part in the “Ration Challenge” for either 3 or 7 days.

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In support of the “Ration Challenge” the dinner for the participants in “The Cage” was plain rice and lentils. Spices could only be added after raising a certain amount of money. Students expressed the difficulties through the fact many could not finish the challenge or use spices in order to make the meals more edible. They realised these were not options for refugees in camps. Participants in the “Ration Challenge” also raised money for refugees and Jesuit Refugee Services.

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Anne Nesbit from the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) alongside Deruka Dekuek a refugee from South Sudan, came to share the work they are currently doing. Currently JRS are working in over 51 countries with displaced persons, the JRS head office in Sydney offers accommodation, assistance into the work force as well as a food bank for refugees in Australia. On average refugees spend 17 years in a UN refugee camp.

JRS supported Deruka Dekuek in receiving a scholarship to a university in Australia. Deruka Dekuek shared her experience in which she was forced to leave her home after it was set on fire by rebels and then had to live in a swamp for 7 years. Following this, she lived in a refugee camp until she could be resettled. Later, she started her education at the age of 16, in which she received top marks in all her subjects. The opportunity for her to move to Australia allowed herself and her 5 children to receive an education. Now she is a popular advocate for JRS and has completed a Masters degree.

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These activities were extremely valuable and we are all excited to educate others and advocate for change throughout our community, it has encouraged us to follow the school motto and “Be the Difference”.

To learn more, go to  https://www.jrs.org.au/

Both events – “The Cage” and the “Ration Challenge” – were organised by Alicia Deak, the Ignatian Coordinator, and Justice and Service Coordinator at Saint Ignatius College Geelong, as part of the College’s Support for Refugee Week. The theme for Refugee Week this year is ‘A World of Stories’.

Story: Maddie Crothers (College Captain) and Isabella Harry (Social Justice Captain). Photos: supplied