Refugee who lived out of survival pack now challenging others to do the same

Farid Asghari was not too sure how old he was when he fled Afghanistan. Source: World Vision

For 40 hours, as part of World Vision’s 'Backpack Challenge', Australians will attempt to walk in the shoes of refugees like Farid Asghari.

Farid Asghari was not too sure how old he was when he fled Afghanistan. All he was sure of, he had no choice but to leave. He was no longer safe in his own home - the country where he was raised.

He packed a few of his clothes and said goodbye to his younger brother.

In his account to 'The Big Issue', Farid recalled how after he was taken by the Taliban and tortured, his uncle feared for his life, and arranged for him to be smuggled out of Afghanistan.

It took 18 months for Farid and 12 other boys to reach Indonesia. From there, they boarded boats to travel to Australia where Farid sat for three days, convinced he was going to die at sea.

“It’s emotional but at the same time, it’s reality. It’s real. This is what I’ve been through,” he said.

Artists depict displacement for World Vision challenge
Artists depict displacement for World Vision challenge

His story is one of 65.5 million - the number of refugees and displaced people around the world - in the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time.

Farid says by telling his story he wants to raise awareness and help other refugees because "there are other people going through the same thing."

“There’s the same thing happening in Syria. That’s what is happening in Africa,” he said.

Farid says World Vision’s 40 Hour Famine Backpack Challenge is going to change Australian youths’ lives.

Refugee children
Globally, more than 65.1 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict. The majority are children.
World Vision

Fifty per cent of displaced are children

Laura Grant, Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor for World Vision said the children who do have enough time to prepare will normally pack backpacks. Farid wasn’t that lucky.  

“I had to leave my country and I didn’t have anything to bring with me, so the only thing I had with me was just clothes,” Farid said.

“It was hard to leave everything behind and just prepare to leave the country without taking all my stuff.”

This is the premise behind the new backpack challenge: for Australian students to stand in solidarity with refugees like Farid.

Farid says the backpack challenge is relevant to his life because of his background as a child refugee. Of the 65.6 million refugees and displaced people, 50 percent are children, as was Farid.

“I have this background of a refugee and I know how it feels to suffer and how it feels to leave your family behind or how it feels to leave a loved one behind and to leave your country,” he told SBS World News.

Backpack Challenge
The Backpack Challenge kicks off from August 11-13, 2017.
World Vision

Solidarity and the 'Backpack Challenge'

The 40 Hour Famine website tells each participant that leaving home is always a last resort.

Farid agrees, “I never ever wanted to leave the people I loved, the people I cared about and I might never see them again. It’s a hard decision to make in your life.”

For the first time in 42 years, the 40 Hour Famine is embarking on something different - the '40 Hour Backpack Challenge'.

Participants will pack everything they think they will need to live for 40 hours; food, water, warm clothing and will live out of their backpacks in the same way refugees are forced to.

Participants will raise funds from sponsors and throughout the weekend, live challenges will be issued with instructions like; live with the lights off, sit in radio silence or move around continuously.

Refugess at a camp in Uganda line up for food and water.
World Vision

Ms Grant said World Vision set up the '40 Hour Backpack Challenge' in ways that Australian students can relate and ultimately connect with.

“Just think about what it would mean to condense your life down to a backpack, even if it is just for 40 hours,” she said.

World Vision’s aim is to raise 4.6 million dollars which will benefit programs in East Africa and the Middle East, the two regions which face the most significant displacement crises at this time.

World Vision hopes that this year’s '40 Hour Backpack Challenge' will spread a wave of empathy, compassion and understanding among Australian youth in the same way the 40 Hour Famine always has.

“The sign up is still going through the roof. We’re expecting there to be tens or hundreds of thousands of Australians participating this year,” Ms Grant said.

Farid said he wants to invite people to do the backpack challenge because "at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter the way we look or where we’re from, we are all human and our blood is the same."

Backpack Challenge
Some of the items that will see participants through the 'Backpack Challenge'.
World Vision

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