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Personal Reflection: 5 Days for the Homeless

How many of you can imagine sleeping outside in -15 degree weather, subject to the elements, with all meals donated to you by others? Or how about wearing 6 pairs of socks, 3 pairs of pants, and 2 sweaters under your warmest jacket just to go to sleep? Without access to personal media and unable to communicate with friends and peers?

That was my reality last week. As part of the 5 Days for the Homeless Campaign, I was to sleep outside with only a pillow and sleeping bag, with no access to showers and no food unless donated by a passersby. I did this with 7 others. Each participant had to abide by the complete list of rules which can be found here all while collecting donations.

The 5 Days for the Homeless is a national campaign in which students sleep outside for 5 days and 5 nights to create awareness and raise funds for the homeless youth in communities across Canada. This year’s campaign ran from March 9 – 14, 2014 in various universities, each of which donated their funds to different charities.

Here at McMaster University, the campaign raised funds for the Notre Dame House, a youth homeless shelter in Hamilton. Our goal of $12 000 is yet to be realized, with an amount of $9400 currently. The money will go towards a homework program and to buy computers and desks for the shelter to enable youth to complete their high school education. This year’s campaign hosted 8 participants and you can read bios of the participants here.

My name is Midhat Malik, and this experience gave me insight into youth homelessness and a sense of the struggle that many people experience daily. Meeting the youth from the Notre Dame house helped me gain a better perspective on the reality of homelessness and insight into what their lives were like.

Doing something like this really allowed me to empathize deeply because of my first-hand experience. I found that my biggest challenge asides from trying to stay warm, was the lack of privacy. Everything was public – the ground we slept on, the washrooms we used, as well as the food that was so generously donated to us by Mac students. It was impossible to be alone.

The food donations by some people we didn’t even know especially warmed my heart. The magnitude of how the community came out to support us in what we did was great. We gained their respect and they definitely gained ours. Here I would like to give a shout out to everyone that came by to donate food, money and kindness. Thank you all.

Most importantly, what I learned from this experience is that I couldn’t have done it alone. Being with 7 other people who experienced this with me helped make it easier. It knit us together and allowed us to collectively work for a greater cause. However, many homeless people do not have other people to rely on like we did. We got to go home after the 5 days, but others do not have this luxury – this is their reality.

We are still accepting online monetary donations to enable homeless youth to build a life through education. These will be accepted until the end of March.

Please help us in reaching our goal by donating to the campaign on our website: 5days.ca/mcmaster/donate/

Written by: Midhat Malik

5 Days for the homeless - pic.

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