On February 10th a group of grade 9 students at Island Pacific School braved the rain and cold sleeping outside overnight – the culmination of their work participating in Sleep Out: Student Edition. These young people demonstrated profound and unwavering support of peers less fortunate than themselves; Covenant House is grateful to the students, staff and parents for their hard work and dedication to the youth seeking out Covenant House’s help every day. I’m very happy to share Assistant Head of School Jennifer Henrichsen’s reflections as well as those of some of the participating students.
"Don't judge someone unless you have walked a mile in their shoes". The grade 9s at Island Pacific School have tried to do just that with part of their community service this year focused on youth homelessness. After learning about the causes and realities for youth on the street they embarked on the action component. They raised an incredible $6,403 for Covenant House in their Sleep Out: Student Edition program - essentially our students would take the place of homeless youth for a night. On Wednesday, we spent the afternoon volunteering at Covenant House then tried to 'walk a mile' in the shoes of a street kid. Each student was given a toonie for dinner and walked in groups around Gastown and the Downtown East Side. Back on Bowen Island, we slept behind the school on thin mats and cardboard, talking around the fire of things we had seen and emotions felt. As you can see from some of the excerpts below, taken from their reflections, this experience has opened their eyes and their hearts. A mile in their shoes can only create feelings of compassion and empathy:
- What really upset me is knowing that life was maybe worse for kids -because of abuse - at ‘home’ and that the street was better or their only option.
- Our society is really affected by homelessness, and, in most cases it doesn’t even spare a glance, never mind a handful of change. If everyone could do a single sleep out, I’m sure the world would be a different place.
- Last night I was surrounded by friends. When it struck me that these people really are alone in life it really impacted my thoughts. Now I will think of them with more respect for what they have to face on their own every day.
- I think this experience with Covenant House will make me look differently at someone on the street. I can look at them knowing that they could have a bright future, even though they have had a bad past.
Thank you again to all the students for your dedication to the youth Covenant House serves.
For more information on Sleep Out: Student Edition please visit the website.