August 25, 2015

Final thoughts on the Basic Needs Challenge

August 25, 2015

I was raised to be grateful and appreciate what I had, even when there wasn’t much of it (which was most of the time). I grew up with no running water, no flush toilets, and sometimes no electricity. I shared a single bed with a grandparent until I was 12-years-old and was taught how to stretch out a meal to make it last.

Despite my circumstances, I was surrounded by a family that loved me unconditionally and forever. As a result, I was a very happy kid. There wasn’t much they could offer me in terms of shiny possessions, but the intangible gifts I received (every single day of my childhood!) still follow me to this day.

This Basic Needs Challenge was tough. Eating three cups of rice for three days broke us down mentally as we craved nutrients and missed our social lifestyle (apparently everything in our life revolves around food).  Hiking six kilometres while carrying 40-pound jerry cans on our backs broke us down physically (I still have the aches and bruises to prove it).

Throughout the challenge I thought of my friends in South Sudan who live like this every day.  During that final night under my tarp in a field, surrounded by friends and family, I was reading real stories of people living in IDP camps.

Beneath the faint glow of our lantern, I looked at the faces that surrounded me and, although it was obvious how exhausted we all were from the difficult week, everyone was smiling. My 12-year-old son and his friend commented on a photo that warmed my heart.

Rather than focusing on the meagre possessions of the IDPs, my son and his friend were drawn to the smiling faces in the picture. They summarized the entire challenge for me when they came to this conclusion: “They’re going through so much, but look at their faces. They’re still happy because they have each other. And that’s the most important thing in life – each other.”

In that moment, I knew that the lessons of my childhood had come full circle. Not only were we paying immense respect to the people of South Sudan, we were also being reminded of what really matters and to always be grateful that we have it in our lives.

Photo: Brian Sokol

Sleeping in a field for 24 hours with nothing but one possession broke us down on EVERY level. — Treana Peake, Founder, Obakki Foundation