I know what you’re thinking Mani and charity?? How did that happen? Believe me, I ask myself the same question.
It’s not that I don’t care about the world and helping people but I’m more of a behind the scenes helper, my sister is the more hands on one, the do-gooder in the family.
Well, if you didn’t already know (by me harassing you for money) I volunteered to do a sleep out with work, not really thinking about what I was signing up for. I knew it was myself and 10 of my colleagues and we wanted to raise money and awareness for homelessness.
At the sleep out the CEO for the Chamber of Commerce where I work made a valid point in his speech, how many times do you walk past someone sleeping rough and pretend not to notice and look the other way? That hit a little close to home for me as I’m ashamed to say I’ve done it countless times.
I mean I struggle to listen to the news because what I hear angers and upsets me and I guess I do the same locally and turn a blind eye to what happens closer to home (which is currently Birmingham).
The sleep out was to raise money for St Basil’s, in partnership with Edgbaston Foundation, who help young people, the most likely to become homeless, get off the streets. And as Jean Templeton (CEO of St Basil’s) mentioned we are all 3 steps away from being in such a situation.
Anyway back to the sleep out.
The team all prepared themselves for a night of cold, potentially wet, ‘rough’ sleeping at Edgbaston Cricket Ground on 26th April.
I, personally, finished work at 5 went home, showered and had some tea (dinner) before heading back out in my layers and winter coat and sleeping bag to the stadium (obviously not wearing all these things I took them with me!).
We had some tea and coffees, a tour of the stadium itself, some food and a nets session with Ashley Giles and other young cricketers. We had speeches from our CEO, the CEO of St Basils and also two inspiring young men who were once homeless and with the help of St Basil’s landed on their feet. Much admiration and respect for them both.
Once the formal part of the evening was over with we were given cardboard boxes and went to find a ‘patch’ to rough it for the night. The majority of us had put down we were ‘night owls’ and decided to stay up for as long as we could.
It was fun to begin with, we set up our temporary homes in the stands and hung out. Thankfully the rain didn’t come as predicted but the night did get very cold, seeping in through the concrete and my shoes around 1.30am.
Around 4pm the team decided to sleep and I bunkered down into my sleeping bag and had a disrupted sleep on the concrete and the cold making it difficult to get comfortable for a couple of hours. It was a bit of a relief to lay down and close my eyes as I was feeling nauseous the longer the night went on.
I woke at 6am, I still wasn’t feeling too great, my body felt a bit battered and after a quick packing up of my ‘home’ for the night went inside to warm up slightly and have breakfast.
The drive back to my house, also in Edgbaston, made me reflect that this was ONE night of my life. It was a sheltered sleep out but it didn’t make me any less grateful that I had a home to go to, I had access to a hot shower and a bed where I felt secure.
The morning after the night before was not a good one. I’ve had plenty of all-nighters in the past but I’ve always had a couple of hour’s kip in the security of my own bed. The concrete did not count.
I had half a day at work and it was worse than the night before. I flagged and left work around 1pm. I found myself getting irrationally angry, my eyes were stinging from tiredness and I couldn’t concentrate. Leaving at 1pm I went home and slept until around 4.30pm where I knew I had to wake to meet a friend for tea (dinner).
I got emotional, I was exhausted, my body hurt and all the insecurities I’ve felt whenever I’ve been down in the past few months just hit me with like a tonne of bricks due to exhaustion. My friend was running late and I sat in my car and cried. Thankfully when we got together and had food I felt much better.
Not only did it make me so grateful for my life and the fact that I have a roof over my head, a job, and a massive support network, it made me empathetic to those whose lives are like this day in day out.
I understand more how it can be psychologically damaging to be homeless. It’s not just about sleeping rough, where it’s a hell of a lot more unsafe on the streets than the security of the stadium but the lack of sleep and not knowing how to turn your life around must have a massive impact on one’s mental state of mind.
I’m glad I did it, I’m proud we raised over £4k and hope the money really does make a difference to these young people. It’s also made me want to help more if I can. The young lad who spoke of his experience mentioned that a simple hi and conversation with someone sleeping rough goes a long way. I know it’s scary and you feel a little unsafe in doing so but you don’t know the impact it could have on them and theie probably more scared than you are.
Thank you for reading about my experience and you can still donate to our page and further information on how to help below;
http://ow.ly/BmHo30jQV4k – Totalgiving page
http://ow.ly/BmHo30jQV4k – St Basil’s website
Call the Homeless services team on 0121 303 7410. Out of hours emergencies phone 0121 303 2296.
NB…I know sometimes we all bury our heads against the unpleasantness of life, I know I do but I’ll make a more conscious effort to try harder in helping where I can.
Have a good day xo