Every year since 2015, churches and communities all across the country have stepped up to take the Sleepout Challenge and stand up to homelessness.
There are some truly wonderful people who have joined the challenge each year since then; Sian Simpkins is one of those wonderful people. Her parish in South Essex have challenged their youth group for three years in a row and this year a group of 9 people between the ages of 7 and 50 raised nearly £1,000 – their enthusiasm and support keeps growing every year!
So, why do they keep coming back for more? This is what Sian has had to say:
Sian, tell us how this fantastic journey started for your church.
Well, it all started with my daughter. She was 8 when the Sleepout Challenge started in 2015 and her social conscience got the better of her (and me!). I’d seen some information on the CUF Facebook page and showed it to her. She’s always been upset to see people sleeping rough and together we agreed to organise a Sleepout at church!
Amazing! Who did you get involved then?
Once we’d agreed to do it, it seemed sensible to involve the wider youth group. It hasn’t been exactly the same group who have taken part each year, but the parish youth group have made up the core.
Why do you think they keep coming back for more?
One of the great things about the Sleepout Challenge is that, as well as being a great way to raise awareness of, and money for, homelessness, it is also great fun! Everyone who takes part genuinely enjoys the experience – it’s a memorable thing to do!
We do our best to make it as fun as possible. In the first year we built a nativity scene out of cardboard boxes. It was a very powerful symbol and stayed up in the church through all of Advent. This year we included ping pong and what turned out to be an incredibly competitive game of UNO!
So, the secret is to make it fun?
Exactly! But we’ve also been blessed by an incredibly generous congregation. They really get behind the children and the Sleepout. Having online fundraising platforms has meant that we’ve been able to fundraise from people outside the church, as well. Three years in and we’ve just raised our highest ever total!
Does that mean you’ll be back for more next year?
I think so! The Sleepout has become a fixture on the youth group/church calendar. The youngsters look forward to it every year. We’ll try and think of another twist to next year so that we can do something slightly different and keep it fresh. That way we can make sure that we’re still raising awareness and understanding as well as having fun!