This past February, Grade 8 & 9 students from Island Pacific School on Bowen Island took learning to the next level. They opened their hearts and minds to the devastating world of youth homelessness by researching pathways that lead youth to the streets. They also explored downtown Vancouver to gain a better understanding of services available to their peers, volunteered at Covenant House Vancouver, and hosted their own Sleep Out: Student Edition.
Sleep Out: Student Edition is a fundraising experience that schools across the Lower Mainland have been hosting throughout the school year. Student’s learn about youth homelessness, sleep out in solidarity for homeless youth and raise funds to help youth at Covenant House Vancouver achieve lasting independence.
Teachers Jennifer Henrichsen and Pam Matthews inspired their students to get the most out of their Sleep Out by organizing a walk around downtown that included dinner on a $2 budget, and a volunteer shift at Covenant House before heading back to IPS to sleep outside.
One student, Lauren, shares: "Our society makes this scary idea around homelessness…I mean for most of my life I have had this exact idea and fear in my head. But yesterday made a huge change in my outlook on why people are on the street. The one part of yesterday that truly resonated with me was walking in East Hastings. It made me realize the extent of the homelessness problem and made me feel that those people deserved so much more."
IPS students were only allowed to bring a sleeping bag and matt to sleep outside with. No pillow. No extra blankets. No snacks. They huddled together trying to keep warm throughout the drizzly night.
"We all suffered the cold, damp, uncomfortable conditions, but the most important difference that I saw was that we were together. On the street there rarely are people huddled all around you that care and will look out for you. We were outside as a team, but youth on the street are all alone," explains Aria.
In only two weeks, this passionate group of students, teachers and their families raised $4,675 to provide 17 youth in Covenant House’s Rights of Passage Program with supportive transitional housing so they too will be prepared for a healthy, happy, independent future out of poverty and off the streets.
Our most sincere thanks goes out to the IPS community for sharing their passion for life with our deserving young people.