Sydney Catholic Schools’ Team Leader: Family Educator Project, Meredith Lemos, has been warmed by the empathy and generosity of the Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) community.
Family Educators have led students, teachers and staff in jointly raising nearly $28,000 for the lay Catholic organisation St Vincent de Paul Society – affectionately known as Vinnies – to help people living rough on our streets this blistery winter.
“It’s going up by the second,” Mrs Lemos said with excitement in her voice.
Every night, more than 116,000 Australians experience homelessness and a quarter are young people aged under 18, just like our students at SCS.
Vinnies Australia is fighting to halve this number by 2025 and Mrs Lemos is optimistic the SCS family can together raise $30,000 to help Vinnies break the cycle of homelessness.
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
Sydney Catholic Schools’ Family Educator Project Team invites families to be advocates for the homeless by taking part in simultaneous family backyard sleepouts and sitouts this Friday (26 June).
“Our inaugural FamilyWinterSleepout@Home event aims to bring families together to gain a deeper understanding of the realities of homelessness, while encouraging greater empathy and kindness among our students,” Mrs Lemos said.
Vinnies’ National Council of Australia chief executive officer, Toby O’Connor said falling donations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a spike in demand for services, make tough times even tougher for many people.
“While our good works continue, revenue from our shops has all but disappeared due to necessary closures,” Mr O’Connor said. “Donations now are vital.”
Friday’s FamilyWinterSleepout@Home event has four parts:
1. Make a card and attach it to a muesli bar/biscuit snack to be donated back at school for Vinnies’ Night Patrol Vans.
The vans operate seven nights a week, excluding New Year’s Eve, providing a meal, blankets, toiletries, snacks, hot beverages and, most importantly, companionship to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness including in the Greater Sydney area. Last year, the vans provided 8790 meals.
2. Make soup together to drink during your family sleepout/sitout – hot soup is something Vinnies’ soup vans usually distribute to the hungriest and neediest in our society. Their dedicated volunteers are called Vannies.
3. Sleep/sit outside in the cold on only a piece of cardboard and discuss with your family how you are feeling, including sharing some of the harsh facts about homelessness in Australia.
4. Once inside, watch this slideshow and pray together as a family for those sleeping under bridges, on park benches, in doorways or bus stations. You may wish to direct your prayers to Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, the patron saint of the homeless and downtrodden, who wore the rags of a beggar and shared his food with the poor.
Vinnies’ homelessness services include: accommodation; domestic violence refuges; food, clothing, blankets and sleeping bags; counselling and healthcare; and individualised support to address barriers such as debt and unemployment, with the ultimate goal of finding a permanent and safe home.
To be part of FamilyWinterSleepout@Home or to donate, go to: bit.ly/3dcSDyO.
Mrs Lemos said alternative school fundraising events facilitated by the Family Educators to raise money for Vinnies have included sock and pyjama days. Students at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School Earlwood are making a virtual blanket of love to support families facing an uncertain time.
…Because everyone deserves a safe place to call home.