Students raise money and experience homelessness at Vinnie’s sleepout
Students around the Archdiocese braved a cold winter night last week to raise funds for those who don’t have a safe place to call home.
While Canberra leaders slept rough outside the National Museum, Merici students camped out at the college, and St Joseph’s Primary School Goulburn North students bunkered down in the school hall.
At St Joseph’s, 30 Year 6 ‘Mini Vinnies’ each spent ten minutes of the evening alone outside, experiencing the winter chill.
“It was drizzly and windy and helped children understand the loneliness and miserable conditions,” Religious Education Coordinator Sasha Cady said.
“Students tried to find a spot in the playground that could offer them some protection from the night-time elements.”
Mrs Cady said the experience helped students develop empathy and understanding.
“We had rich discussions about topics, especially ‘privilege’,” she said.
“Many said the sensory experience was the real eye opener – considering where would be the best and safest spot to shelter, being alone, in silence.”
“I feel bad for the people who have to sleep outside in the cold, not eat food every day,” student Clara Costigan said.
“It makes me feel grateful for everything I have been blessed with in my life,” Ellie Tomlinson added.
At Merici College, 60 Year 10-12 students gathered for a presentation on homelessness from Youth Liaison Officer for School Engagement Teah Searle.
“Teah’s insights and stories shed light on the realities faced by individuals without a place to call home, inspiring our students to act and foster empathy within their hearts,” principal Anna Masters said.
2023 College Captain Raechel McKinnon said she had participated in the Vinnies Sleepout in the past and always found it to be a great experience.
“I think it is an important experience to have, as it has led me to improve my understanding of what it is like to experience homelessness, and in doing so, has helped me to better empathise with those who are homeless,” she said.
“It has motivated me to create positive change within the community and work to help alleviate poverty.”
Spirituality Captain Tahlia Hancock said she had learned how severe and common the issue of homelessness was in the community.
“Sleeping out with my peers provides me with the opportunity of bonding with my friends, supporting each through cold and uncomfortable surroundings,” she said.
“Teah, our Vinnies guest speaker, presented a very educational workshop and provided us with the opportunity of imagining ourselves in situations that homeless people experience. She also presented scenarios that we didn’t consider before, opening our eyes to the fact that these scenarios are something many people deal with each day.”
The Vinnies CEO Sleepout raised over $780,000 for people experiencing homelessness in the region. These funds will be used to support the delivery of Vinnie’s specialist homelessness services and to provide emergency assistance with rent, food, medical and fuel bills to many at risk of homelessness.
Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn CEO Lucy Hohnen thanked the generosity and solidarity of participants, community, and sponsors for helping raise the much-needed funds.
“There is a real crisis out there and we need each dollar raised to help those experiencing the toughest of times,” she said.
“On top of the people we have always supported, we are now supporting a new cohort, those with jobs and, in some cases, mortgages who simply can’t make ends meet. We are seeing a steep upward trajectory in the number of people coming to Vinnies for help.”