My Experience at the 2018 Redhill Nelson Mandela School SleepOut™
I was near to being overwhelmed as I watched children of all ages walk onto the field, preparing for a night they would probably never forget.
Everyone was warmly layered while happily laying out large cardboard boxes and brightly colored sleeping bags on the wet grass. It was at this point already, that our “beds” were collecting frost, and it had not even become dark. The group of students were already filled with hunger, as we swarmed towards the set up including hot drinks, soup and bread.
The participants had the choice of how many layers we wanted to show up in and whether we wanted to eat or not. The homeless take whatever they can get, and that was just one of the many things to realize on this long and meaningful night.
We spent a while in the hall making gorgeously colored, educational and fun toys from reusable items, that would later on be donated to schools and children in need of such things. This was to be done in groups, and the community was already feeling closer, considering the teamwork and cooperation during this time.
Fortunately our school has their own wonderfully impressive radio known as ‘Red Radio’ who interviewed many people across the room, filling the air with even more excitement. I had already made friends with people I hadn’t even spoken to before this night. As we gathered by the fires, inspiring guest speakers spoke beautiful words that will be remembered by us forever, as we were greatly encouraged and moved by all. We contributed confidently and reflected on our conversations.
My personal favorite part of the entire experience was when each and every one of us sang, ‘Asimbonanga’, as a group. Goosebumps took control of my entire body as I listened and sang along. There was a black board allowing everyone to write a note to Madiba, expressing thoughts and meaningful words of their choice.
Later into the night, we may have laughed while spreading peanut butter and jam onto sandwich bread because of the sticky mess we created, but the pure happiness among us was created by the fact that we knew where these sandwiches were going after being made, and the smiles that these simple foods would create for those most deserving. There was a huge impact made on all of us during a time where we were still having such fun, and our hearts were honestly filled with joy because of the pure feeling of giving back.
The struggle of trying to get warm, finally came as we approached sleep. Blanket on top of blanket, you could not escape the bitterness of the air – this is the part of the experience that hits you the most. This is the part that stays with you forever. We could hardly cope with the cold for one night, we couldn’t even begin to say we understand what it is like to do it every single difficult night. A SleepOut™ should not be done to only emphasize the night spent outside, but to rather let the participants leave with memories and a knowledge… to remember the feeling for the rest of their lives.
There were feelings the night filled me with, that I could not possibly put into words. I was so extremely grateful to be an Ambassador for a night that was so incredibly moving. I am so thankful to everyone for putting their entire heart and soul into every part of the night.
We may have not changed the world, but we most certainly changed the lives of others and took a significant step towards making it a better world for them to live in.