FOR a week Jay James will swap her normal diet for the barest of essentials.

The university worker will be living off rice, lentils, flour, kidney beans, chickpeas and sardines.

Jay, 48, will be taking part in Concern UK’s Ration Challenge in September to educate the public about the plight of refugees across the world.

During the week she will limit herself to the same rations consumed by Syrian refugees.

Jay is part of a team of four made up of Amy Sheridan, Susie Bearne and David Laurie who hope to raise a combined £2,000.

She said: “Last year my friend and colleague Amy took part in it.

“It was really tough and she had hardly anything to eat.

“She wanted to do it again this year and asked if I would join.

“We are part of a team made up of Amy, her twin sister and her sister’s husband.

“You get 2kg of rice and everyone thinks it is a lot. You can’t have tea or coffee, only water.

“As you earn more donations you can add more food in like salt or herbs or vegetables.

“For us this is only a week but the refugees have got to live with this day in day out.”


Jay admitted: “I am worried about the lack of nutrients.

“We have a little recipe book and what you can make from the rations is amazing, they are extremely inventive with what they can do with a little bag of rice.”

Coronavirus has hit us all hard but none more so than those in refugee camps.

Jay, who works for Essex University as a PA and event planner, added: “More than one in every 100 people on earth have been forced from their homes by conflict or disaster.

“That’s nearly 80 million people - the most on record.

“Already living a nightmare, it’s a huge injustice that these communities will now be hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.”

For Jay, who moved from Amsterdam to Brightlingsea eight years ago, the challenge was a way to make a difference and raise awareness of the plight of refugees.


She said: “I have got a garden, my house, gas and electric and they are in tents on campsites and some without medical care.

“I am only on rationed food. I am safe in my home with no war and I have not had to flee my country.

“Eating the food will make me feel a little bit connected to them.

“With Covid it has made a hard situation for them more difficult.”

Teams have been preparing for the challenge on a Facebook page sharing recipes and fundraising tips.

Jay added: “I made flat bread for the first time last week.

“I’d never made it before in my life and I thought I’d better be prepared.

“If I’d messed it up my flour would be all gone.”

The money raised will help provide emergency food, hygiene kits and life-saving support to refugees.

A £25 donation can provide two visits to a medical centre, £39 provides food for three months and £81 can provide two weeks of training for a female refugee.

To donate to the cause, visit