No one dreams of spending their Friday night sleeping on the streets of Manchester UK in the cold rain. Yet a team from ThoughtWorks Manchester did just that to build awareness and raise money for the UK charity, Action for Children, which helps to tackle the root causes of why young people find themselves on the streets. This annual event is called ByteNight and is in its 17th year. The ThoughtWorks team raised approximately £1700 in 2013, which helped provide counseling and hot meals to more than 100 neglected children. On the evening of the event, in true Manchester fashion, it rained throughout the night. The team, however, was protected by umbrellas and thoughts of a warm bed, unlike the daily reality for the homeless.
Q: There are many charitable organizations worthy of support. Why did ThoughtWorks Manchester choose to support Byte Night?
A: Emily – The issue of homelessness was top of mind for many of us as we were working with our local client Mustard Tree, a charity that helps the homeless and marginalised. Many of us wanted to experience for one night what the people Mustard Tree support have to go through for years sometimes.
Q: What did your family say when you told them you sleeping outside?
A: Maryam – My husband joined me. My parents were shocked at first but understood it was a planned activity and we would be safe. It really brought up for all of us the stigma attached to homelessness and the dangerous reality it brings to many youth.
Q: What was the hardest part of the sleep-out?
A: Maryam – The weather! In one hour it was freezing. We were given very basic – but warm – food. Most homeless people don’t even have that.
A: Emily – We were given umbrellas and survival bags. I was so proud that I was able to keep myself dry, until I tipped all the contents out and ended up soaked, freezing and it was only 3 am. It gave me a whole new understanding of how bitter and unforgiving the weather can be if you don’t have a roof over your head.
Q: How did the experience change you?
A: Emily - I truly didn’t think I would expect to feel different walking into my home but I was filled with such gratitude for the ability to be able to kick my boots off, brush my teeth and to have a warm blanket. You really know the value of a home after even one night without it.
It inspired me to want to do even more for Mustard Tree, not only through fundraising but by raising awareness for the fantastic work they do.
A: Maryam – I agree. It was a very interesting experience that opened my eyes to the things that homeless people need: warm food, shelter and a way out of that situation.
Q: Would you do it again?
A: Emily + Maryam – YES!