21 March 2017

The Big Sleep Out

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On the last Friday before the Easter holidays, a group of 55 students and five teachers arrived at school with sleeping bags and lots of warm clothes. We were participating in the Big Sleep Out.

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This entailed spending a night sleeping rough on the school campus, trying to emulate the everyday experience of refugees and homeless people, with the aim of raising money and awareness for Refugee Action. This is a UK-based charity, whose Chief Executive, Stephen Hale OBE, is an Old Sennockian, which helps refugees to ‘build safe, happy and productive lives’ in the UK. We all agreed that this is extremely relevant to many current global issues.

At 7pm we arrived at our base for the evening, the Sixth Form common room, and got into our groups for the night. We listened to a motivating talk from Dr Edwards, reminding us of why we were doing this: to put ourselves in the shoes of the homeless, and to raise money for them.

We then split into sleeping groups, and set out to find places to sleep. This was particularly interesting, as many areas of the campus that we would not regard as social spaces, such as the bag racks, or an outdoor staircase proved to be some of the most sheltered sleeping spots. However, these locations were not exactly plentiful, and there were lots of us, so some students slept on open ground, with no shelter from the rain showers that came during the night.

Supper was soup and bread which we had while sitting round a chimenea in the Swanzy courtyard, listening to music and chatting. At 10:00 it was time to get into our sleeping bags and try and get some sleep, which proved to be quite difficult with only a few pieces of cardboard to soften the concrete floor. Our group all fell asleep fairly quickly, as we were huddled up to keep warm, under the stairs outside the Physics block. Despite the apparent cover, it was far from a peaceful night’s sleep. We were still exposed to some of the wind and rain blowing between the buildings, and noises of the town.

Waking up the next morning at 5am was rewarding as we saw the sun rise. At seven we headed down to the Sennocke Centre, where we changed into clean clothes and brushed our teeth, before having breakfast. This further highlighted how the struggles the homeless face stretch far beyond the actual sleeping. These simple morning routines would not be available to many, nor would they wake up with the knowledge of having breakfast, or even something to occupy them during the day.

Morning lessons were a bit more of a struggle than usual, and by the middle of the day all of us felt quite fatigued. For us, this really highlighted the impact regularly sleeping rough could have on someone’s ability to seek work or education. We were very glad to return home to our beds for Saturday evening, and hope our stories from the night have raised awareness of how much difference a warm shelter could make to someone’s life.

Imogen Berger-North and Sophie McInerney

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