We began in September with an assembly to the Sixth Form highlighting the issues surrounding youth homelessness and raising awareness of this growing problem.
Last year in the year UK, according to the National Statistics, more than 70,000 people were classified as homeless by their local authority; this means they had no permanent home.
More frighteningly, the government estimate that the amount of people sleeping rough on any given night in the UK is 4,751 – this is up 14% from last year.
Our sixth form students were moved to do something about this National problem but wanted to start on a local level.
After 4 weeks of preparation and fundraising, the Big Sleep Easy 2018 was underway at Ferndown Upper School.
On the dark autumnal night on the 4th of October, 55 Ferndown Upper School sixth form students and staff braved the elements in order to raise money for the Bournemouth YMCA Youth Homeless charity.
Armed with recycled cardboard donated from the Big Yellow Storage Company, our students and staff set about building their shelters for the night. As dusk fell, the rear of the sixth form block became an encampment of rough sleepers.
The students thoroughly enjoyed the construction phase, with some designing castle-like structures whilst others went with a more modest rectangular design. In the fading light, the students organised themselves for the chilly October night in front of them.
With the construction phase complete, the Head teacher, Phil Jones and I toured the camp judging the shelters on durability, survivability and creative flair.
Three groups of student were awarded prizes of £10 vouchers donated by Primark; these are to be presented along with the fundraising cheque later in the term.
As the night drew in, a treat was in store for out intrepid rough sleepers. A soup kitchen was opened and students were provided with fresh homemade soup using produce from our very own school garden, courtesy of Sarah Stroud and Vickie Jones.
Shortly afterwards, Domino’s Pizza arrived with a donation of several large pizzas for the students to share before they embarked on the long cold night ahead.
With the treats over, the business of sleeping outside in a cardboard box began: the traffic noise, resident animals, Head Teachers snoring and just others moving around made for a challenging night – not to mention sleeping on a piece of cardboard with just sleeping bag.
At around 3 am, the camp fell quiet and the cold damp of the early autumn Friday morning started to creep into the shelters. I managed to doze for an hour or so, safe in the knowledge that my colleagues had agreed to cover the night shift and stay up on duty. Staff handovers occurred at 3am and 5am!
At 6 am, the camp awoke as the traffic noise got louder and the world started to come into focus. Students emerged, stiff and bleary-eyed, after an uncomfortable night’s sleep but they were met by Charlotte – the cheery manager from Branksome Tesco – who had brought breakfast: croissants, pancakes and cups of tea, which were most welcome. Charlotte even stayed to help clear up.
After a much-appreciated breakfast, the camp was dismantled and 200 cardboard boxes were piled neatly in the rear car park, ready for the guys from War on Waste recycling to come and collect.
As my thoughts turned towards the day of work ahead of me, and I reflected on the night we had just experienced, I checked the Ferndown Upper School webpage on the BT my donate site.
What I saw stopped me in my tracks and continues to do so.
As I sit here on a Friday afternoon, just over a week after the event, the total (including Gift Aid) stands at an astonishing;
This is the biggest sum of money Ferndown Upper School has ever raised and will go a long way to helping combat youth homelessness in Bournemouth and Dorset.
The enthusiasm of the students and the drive they showed to raise their individual £50 challenge target was amazing. Thanks to Dorset School of Driving, the student who has raised the most money will receive a 2 hour driving lesson worth £50 pounds
The generosity of the parents, friends and well-wishers should never be underestimated and has left us all speechless at the sum of money we have managed to raise for this worthy cause.
If you wish to donate to this cause, google search “Ferndown Upper School Sleep Easy 2018” and find the BT my donate page and simply click donate or if you reading this online, click on the link: Ferndown Upper School Sleep Easy 2018 for YMCA Bournemouth on MyDonate
I would like to thank my fellow staff members who helped me make this event such a success: Phil Jones, Nadia Abdulgani, Emma Elliott, Cadi Hicks, Val Lloyd-Smith, Chris Martin, Tracy Randall, Fran Sims, Jude Wateridge, Sarah Stroud and Vickie Jones. Thank you so much.
My amazing sixth form students and my brilliant colleagues have learned a lot about the issue of homelessness and gained a valuable insight into what many young people experience every night. We were lucky enough to go home and climb in to a warm bed to recover – others are not so fortunate.
Thank you to following sponsors; Big Yellow Storage Company, Branksome Tesco, Primark, Domino’s Pizza, War on Waste and Dorset School of Driving.
I look forward to taking students down to the YMCA at Christmas-time to volunteer and see their fundraising efforts being put to good use helping those less fortunate.
I feel immense pride towards my Sixth Formers; they truly have shown what can be achieved with a bit of hard work and determination.
Mr Andy Jones
Head of Sixth Form