On Thursday 18th July - Friday 19th July, 60 participants from year 10 & 12 at Westcliff High School for Girls slept rough for the night, as part of the first Sleep Easy in School, to raise awareness of youth homelessness and fundraise for Southend YMCA.
The concept behind the event followed on from our public Sleep Easy in March when temperatures dropped to -4 degrees, however as an 18+ event, we want to be able to take the issue of youth homelessness into local schools to engage with the wider schools community, and WHSG stepped in to help us.
15 Ambassadors from within the sixth form were recruited to roll out the event to the upper school, and organise event logistics, as volunteers to Southend YMCA.
On the night, everyone attended our welcome presentation, got their cardboard boxes, set up pitches on the school grounds and then the evening's entertainment began.
Assou, a local African dancer and drummer brought his group and lead a brilliant session with everyone getting involved – even the staff team that were taking part from the school!
An impromptu singalong was led by participant Izzy Rodal, before Justin Taylor, magician and escapologist wowed us with a Houdini classic and card tricks.
Despite the recent hot weather, the temperatures dropped as the evening progressed, and two fire bins were sparked up to keep everyone warm as singer songewriter Sheila Lord performed to the participants.
As the night closed in one by one the group dropped off – aware of their early morning start, by 3am silence fell across the site.
At 6am everyone was woken for breakfast – bacon butties! We regrouped for a reflection on the evening, a group photo and clear up.
Everyone went away having shared an insight into what life must be like for the rough sleepers of Southend. We'd like to thank everyone involved, participants, staff, performers and the school for their dedication and willingness to be involved, especially as everyone had to be at school that morning!
Special thank you to the Southend branches of Big Yellow Self Storage, Tesco, Marks & Spencers and Burton for donating boxes.