Canberra’s cold temperatures set in for Merici College Year 10, 11 and 12 students and teachers who rose to the challenge on Thursday 18 June for the annual Vinnies Sleepout.
The group slept outdoors in the New Quad to raise funds for Canberra’s homeless. With the temperature a low -1 degrees, students and teachers prepared themselves for a cold night. The aim of the night was to promote awareness within our Merici community of the issue of homelessness and to experience a small part of the reality of homelessness.
Over 60 students were joined by a number of staff “sleeping rough” on cardboard but with the luxury of sleeping bags and warm clothes. This highlighted some of the challenges the homeless deal with every day, such as lack of showers and nourishing food. In the Vinnies Live Stream, Merici’s Principal, Loretta Wholley said that the night was a bonding experience that helped promote empathy for the cause. “With over $11,200 raised this year, I am so appreciative to all the Merici families and wider community who have supported the College. The support has been outstanding and will help to make sure other people are being looked after. We are fortunate! We get to go home, have a hot shower which is not what homeless people in Australia get to do. This is just a one-night experience to raise awareness. In the end, it is a very small bit of pain for a lot of gain.”
Jacinta Wright, 2020 Social Justice Captain, noted that raising awareness about homelessness and the valuable work that Vinnies does in our community is her top priority in her role as Social Justice Captain. “Sleeping outside in freezing temperatures is a reality for some that many people do not understand. The sleepout is a hands-on way to emphasise the issue and promote change in our students and the community. The sleepout really opened our eyes to their situations and we were able to personally experience their struggles by physically putting ourselves in their shoes.”
The night began with the students and staff setting up their sleeping areas ensuring they would be as warm as possible with many girls taking an architectural approach, innovatively designing diverse types of shelter from cardboard. Before night struck, they ate a meal of soup and bread. As a group, they reflected on the harsh realities of not having guaranteed food every day.
During the evening, the students were privileged to welcome Therese Canty, Vinnies Youth Liaison Officer who spoke to the students about homelessness in Canberra, the role that Vinnies plays in trying to assist the homeless and the support of Merici. It was also wonderful to have two volunteers from the Vinnies Night Patrol visit the team to talk about the many ways that our community can reach out and help homeless people.
A few reflections from our students regarding the sleepout.
“The Vinnies Sleepout has given me just a tiny glimpse into what people without a secure home in Australia have to do from day to day. It is so inspiring to hear their stories and to see the servant hearted volunteers at work and know that we can help them make a difference too.” Zoe Beresford Year 12 and College Captain
“The Vinnies Sleepout experience made me remember how grateful I am for my warm bed every night and a roof over my head. It made me realise the harsh conditions people face on a daily basis and how grateful we all should be.” Amy Redmond, Year 10
‘When the night patrol came around last night, it opened up my eyes to the conditions people across Australia are living in daily. Lauren Toole, Year 12
We would like to thank all students and staff for supporting this most worthwhile initiative and would like to express heartfelt gratitude to St Vincent de Paul for the invaluable contribution they make to our community.