Students from across New Zealand battled the elements on Thursday night, as they slept rough to raise money for homelessness.
In the first ever Lifewise Big Student Sleepout, 36 students from AUT, SIFE AUT (Students in Free Enterprise) and SIFE New Zealand gathered in Hikuwai Plaza at AUT University’s city campus, with nothing more than a cardboard box, a sleeping bag and a dry concrete path to lay their heads for the evening.
The inspiration for the event came from the huge success of the third Lifewise Big Sleepout in June, in which business and community leaders slept rough for a night at AUT University, raising close to $130,000.
After a conversation with Lesley Mynett-Johnson from Lifewise, Akbar Makani, present Country Manager for SIFE New Zealand, and Afra Abdeen, current SIFE AUT president decided to get involved and help raise awareness of the issue of youth homelessness.
Lesley Mynett-Johnson says it’s great to see students following the example of the corporates earlier this year.
“They’ve taken up the challenge to make a difference to young homeless people, and I’d personally like to thank all the students for getting involved and sticking it out even when the temperature in Auckland plummeted. They’ve been prepared to put themselves in a situation that’s not familiar to them, to increase their understanding of homelessness and the day-to-day realities of young homeless people. And of course to raise funds to support Lifewise’s work.
“The team at SIFE AUT have been inspirational; from the time they approached Lifewise with the idea right through to this morning. We are hugely grateful to them.”
To date, $2,300 has been raised by The Lifewise Big Student Sleepout and fundraising will continue until the end of September.
Reflecting on last night, Afra Abdeen describes the experience as rather surreal.
"It's hard to think that last night the AUT Quad was full of 36 students taking a stand against youth homelessness. It's almost like it didn't happen; just as homelessness is often a hidden issue. Because of this, it's easier for people to distance themselves from the issue, because you don't personally experience it. Even though you might see homeless people on the street, the average student doesn't know much about homelessness. It is important for students to experience it and see it for themselves even if it is just for one night.”
Afra Abdeen says SIFE AUT are passionate about improving people's quality of life and standard of living through the projects they run.
“We want to show students that there are many ways, not just projects, that we can make an impact. Partnering up with Lifewise and creating events such as this one gives students something that exposes them to different ways to give back. SIFE projects are only one way. There are many ways to give back to our community, and we hope to be able to endorse these as well.”
SIFE AUT Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) is an international non-profit which endeavours to bring together the top leaders of today and tomorrow to create a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business. Since SIFE began in 1975 it’s grown to over 48, 000 student volunteers operating on more than 1500 university campuses in 39 countries. AUT University has been an active participant since 2004, with SIFE AUT being part of AUT Business School.
Lifewise is a community and social development agency which provides a wide range of programmes including a team of support workers assisting homeless people off the streets.