students cram into their own slum dwelling
Over 200 students from St Dominic’s Sixth Form College in Harrow put their faith into action working on many different projects for the homeless in London and overseas during the college’s Fair World Week.
“ I had no idea that such a lot of perfectly good food is wasted every day” said Arun, one of a group who spent two days helping out with the FareShare charity at Park Royal, which collects food from local stores and distributes it to organisations working with disadvantaged people in the community. “The people we took the food to were so grateful I think we should volunteer for longer next time!” said Kiran. Meanwhile another group of students were making and serving sandwiches at soup kitchens in central London. "I didn’t expect the people who are homeless to be so well educated" said Priscilla. "It made us realise how quickly things can go wrong if you lose your job" said Lola.
But homelessness doesn’t just mean having no bed to sleep on or food to eat, as the students who visited the Cardinal Hume Centre in Westminster discovered. “One man told me that being homeless means being hopeless as well” said Alison “but by providing individual mentoring and training in important skills such as cookery, IT and interview technique we saw how the Centre can set their clients on the road to independence and give them a new hope for the future” said Deirdre.
The group who volunteered at the Catholic Worker Farm in Rickmansworth, where Scott and Maria share their home with ten destitute asylum seekers and their children, learned what hard physical work is needed to grow your own food. “I was aching all over” said Anne- Marie. Katie was moved by Scott’s story: “He told us how he was a member of the military, before becoming a peace activist – this change in his life was a stark one and highlighted the meaningful and selfless nature of the work that he undertakes on a day to day basis”. “It was a really interesting day, made even better by the fact that we knew we had helped people” added Maresa.
However Fair World Week is not just about helping disadvantaged people locally. Several groups of students were supporting poor communities in Africa. A team of thirty helped to re-furbish old sewing machines and tools at the Workaid warehouse in Chesham. “We saw how the tools are packed and taken in a container to vocational training centres in East Africa, where they are used to enable the local people to acquire the skills to become self supporting and lift themselves out of poverty” said Julie.
Meanwhile back at college a range of sponsored activities were taking place on the field. On Monday over 70 students took part in the St Dominic’s Olympic challenge raising over £700 for Cafod. “It was great fun and a real team building day” said Parsa.
More than 60 students took part in the Slum Survivor challenge over Tuesday and Wednesday. After spending all morning building their own ‘slum’ out of old pallets, cardboard and plastic sheeting everyone was really hungry but lunch was two slices of dry bread and water!
By the end of the day a tired Francesca reflected “I feel quite upset, we’re moaning about having to climb the hill to the sport’s hall to get water and use the toilet, but in Uganda people walk so far to get water every day.” “ It’s made us realise how much we take our lives for granted” said Victor “ but 1 billion people live in these conditions their whole lives” added Amandeep. The group raised £3500 in sponsorship for the charity Revelation Life that works with families living in the slums of Kampala.