The SleepOut™ Experience At My School
After weeks of preparation and months of stress, the 18th of July finally came. After a regular day, the evening of our Nelson Mandela School SleepOut™ began and it was set to be an evening like no other. I don’t think anyone who spent the night woke up the next day without being a bit humbler, a bit more grateful for what they have and maybe even a bit stiffer than previously.
The evening started slow, with people arriving gradually all trying to find spots to put their cardboard and sleeping bags. I was happy to see many attendees really embrace the cause and only bring the bare minimum for the full experience. After a while, myself and a few other students gathered all the participants and had them sit in our schools amphi-theatre. Here, I stood and introduced myself and the cause, I explained to them why I believe the SleepOut™ initiative is worth taking part in and what I really wanted them to take from the experience. I told them that this night that we would sleep in the cold is serving as an example so that we may feel what it is like to be one of the many less fortunate people without homes or shelter in our country and gain a certain level of empathy towards them. After my speech, the crowd was divided into groups and were asked after a few minutes to stand on stage and tell us what they aim to learn from the experience. Their answers truly warmed my heart. To see that these people equally want to help make change and in the lives of others was awe inspiring and that moment made me realise that this SleepOut™ was already a success. After the speeches, the school got together to divide all the donations into individual hampers which I and a few others would give to Thorn Tree Academy in the coming weeks. The crowd then all sat in their individual sleeping places in silence for 67 minutes in honour of Nelson Mandela. 67 minutes of pure silence to think about all we have and all that Madiba fought for us to have.
The evening continued with good conversations and pictures to commemorate the evening, but before long it was times for the lights to go off and with the darkness came the dread of a cold night. Judging by people’s expressions in the morning, the SleepOut™had the desired effect, that being an uncomfortable, cold and sleepless night. From the people I spoke to that morning, the participants definitely did learn something from the experience.
Regardless of the hard brick ground and the cold night air, my Nelson Mandela School SleepOut™ truly was unforgettable. From speeches, to collectively making hampers, to 67 minutes of silence and finally a cold night of sleep, the evening proved to be valuable and an incomparable learning experience for all who took part.