|Me on a park bench prior to 2014 sleep-out. This was in the local paper.|
The next year the Student volunteer centre at the University got in touch and suggested that we have another winter sleep-out involving students. We slept out in the Octagon again and through various fundraising schemes, the nearly 200 students raised $12,000 toward our purchase price. But more than that it launched the last few months of our campaign and raised the city's awareness of the need. We were able to complete the purchase in October of that year. So a student sleep-out in the Octagon in winter (July) has become something of a tradition and I have been privileged to join in them. Last Friday was this year's version. There were smaller numbers, about 70 students, and I shared with them for the night. It reached zero degrees centigrade, probably below that at the grass level, where we were attempting to sleep. They begin at 7p.m. on the Friday evening with speeches, then had various musicians and entertainers with Zumba and breakfast at around 6 a.m. on Saturday, finishing at 7 a.m.
I unfortunately had responsibilities in the local Church early in the evening. I had joined some students late afternoon to help them set up the Octagon, then helped look after a family fun night at our Church, (I played pool, foosball, twister etc. with kids in the church hall.) returning to the students about 8 p.m. My daughter who is treasurer of the Night Shelter Trust deputised for me with the opening speech.
I had expected a friend and a local Member of Parliament to join me for the night, but both came and gave me legitimate reasons why they had to be looking after family instead. So here I was, a lone old guy (68 years old) among 70 students enjoying sleeping out on a freezing night in the centre of the city. I LOVED it all over again.
I saw these young people caring for the cause that so dominates my life, but they had fun doing it. They made cardboard dwellings where they could sleep. These were judged and the winning team announced. The music talent was of a high standard. Some "fire dancers" came and entertained, then opened it up to others to join in the activity. This went on for a long time, well past midnight. One particular bar in the Octagon had extremely loud music playing which we could easily hear, so there were a heap of students having a spontaneous dance party, doing some sort of line dancing, singing and laughing in the cold night air. In our city the students often have a reputation for bad behaviour and drinking too much. This was an alcohol free event, it was freezing, but they were still obviously really enjoying being together.
|Me with the Student volunteer co-ordinator and members of the Uni-crew planning team a week ago.|
|People gathering for music.|
|Fire dancers entertained us.|
|Tucked up to sleep out in freezing temperatures to raise awareness about homelessness.|
|Zumba at 6 a.m. The dwarf asian girl tried Zumba in her wheelchair. Toward the left edge of the group.|
|It is nearly breakfast.|
|The edge of the Farmers Market where I was collecting.|