On Thursday evening last February 11th, a total of 42 Midleton CBS student volunteers from 4th and 5th year braved the cold and the rain as they staged a sponsored “12-hour Sleepout” in aid of the Cork Simon Community on the CBS grounds. The ” Heroes for the Homeless” event as it was called, was aimed at raising awareness of the issues surrounding homelessness and gave participants an opportunity to experience some of the struggles of homeless people for themselves. Cork Simon visited the school on two occasions during the previous week to conduct workshops with the students prior to the hosting of the event.
Approximately half of the sleepout group travelled to Cork City as part of their “Heroes” experience to walk the streets and visit the familiar hangouts and gathering places of the city’s homeless. Their experience on the city streets last Thursday evening helped reinforce the message and the reality of what homelessness is actually like for those trapped in its grip. Upon returning to the school the boys joined with the other student “Heroes” outside the entrance for the sleepout experience.
In the early hours of the morning all participants were provided with hot soup and bread in a simulation of a Soup Kitchen experience before they were given a opportunity to move inside the school building for a few hours sleep on the bare floor, on cardboard, on mats and sleeping bags – much like a squat or a homeless hostel.
At the conclusion of the event every participant was given a breakfast roll and tea at 8am before they washed and put on their school uniform to face into the normality of a regular school day.
Students quickly realised how difficult it was for them and just how it would be for a homeless person to try and function somewhat normally in a job or occupation while sleeping rough every night. The students had roughed it for just one night in a controlled and relatively comfortable environment and found it difficult to manage next day. It was easy to understand how alcohol or drug addiction or mental health issues or a combination of all could quickly lead to a chaotic lifestyle on the streets if someone was to find themselves in such circumstances.
The ” Heroes for the Homeless” event forms part of a national campaign for schools in the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (formerly Christian Brothers Schools) which was launched by Fr. Peter McVerry a number of weeks ago in the Edmund Rice Centre in Waterford. It is called ” One Campaign for Change” and aims to advocate for the homeless, to raise awareness and gather as many signatures as possible over the coming months, from students and their families across Ireland, to a petition calling for an end to the homeless crisis in our country.
The One Campaign intends to use social media as much as possible as a means to reach the youth of Ireland and get them involved. The social media aspect of the campaign will be launched at the beginning of March. The One Campaign will conclude on the feastday of Blessed Edmund Rice on May 5th when it is planned to have representatives from all participating schools throughout the country hand thousands of signed petitions on behalf of the homeless to representatives of the newly formed Government to address the homeless crisis. Students from Midleton CBS have been invited to participate in an Homeless Photo Exhibition and Concert hosted by Ard Scoil na Mara in Tramore on March 9th. The Waterford High Hopes Choir will also participate.
As part of the homelessness awareness campaign, Midleton CBS will host a major Benefit Concert in the school hall on Wednesday, April 20th featuring the combined Cork and Waterford High Hopes Choirs who have featured extensively on TV in recent months. Other well known musical performers will also feature at the event which promises to be an occasion not to be missed. Full details of the Benefit Concert will be released over the coming weeks. Our thanks to all the students who participated in the homeless sleep-out experience. If anybody would like to provide sponsorship to the boys for their efforts and help Cork Simon it would be greatly appreciated. They can do so by contacting the school office on 0214631555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org