Slum survivors in Harrow

At work in the soup kitchen

At work in the soup kitchen

From building and sleeping in their own improvised shacks, working at a soup kitchen and helping on a project for asylum seekers, students from a north London college have had a real taste of what its like to be hungry and homeless this week.

About 70 young people from St Dominic's Sixth Form College in Harrow, took part in a Fair World Week, co-ordinated by college chaplain Angela Clapham, in response to the Holy Father's call in September for Catholics to be concerned with social justice.

One team of 27 students and six staff, abandoned home comforts to spend 24 hours living in a 'slum' built from old pallets, cardboard and plastic sheeting and without luxuries such as running water, mobile phones or make-up. The experience gave the group a glimpse of what life is like for the one billion people worldwide who live in slums.

"It's difficult to live as they do and we haven't even done it properly!" said Sinead, 17. "It's made me appreciate what I've got right now" added Chandini.

For many of the group it was the limited diet of bread, rice and vegetables that had the biggest impact. "I've never been so thankful for two slices of bread in my life" said Daniel.

The normally energetic Kemi was subdued: "I was so hungry I didn't care what I was eating. I think we take a lot for granted, like if we are hungry we can just go down to the shops to get food. " she said.

A second group of 20 students and staff swapped life in the classroom for an insight into a day in the life of a homeless Londoner. Working at the London Jesus Centre, they experienced at first hand Christianity in action and spent time serving food and listening to the amazing life stories of some of the Centre's clients.

Nancy Parsons, Head of Religious Studies, said: "the work that the community does is truly remarkable. The lengths they go to support and enhance the lives of the visitors knows no bounds".

For students Anita and Michaela the experience was a real eye- opener: "the day was very humbling and has made me reflect on what I have but more importantly on what I can give" said Anita. "it is very easy for us to give money but giving time is far more valuable. We all have a responsibility to those less fortunate and it's all too easy to think that it could never happen to me" reflected Michaela.

At the Catholic Worker Farm in Rickmansworth, Scott and Maria Albrecht share their home with ten destitute female asylum seekers and their children. College Principal Patrick Harty and a group of ten students spent a day helping on the farm and seeing how this family live out Catholic social teaching through practicing the works of mercy.

The day made a deep impression on Joe. "I really admire the work Scott and his family do here and the visit has inspired me to try and be as selfless and caring as them" he said. "The work that is done at the Catholic Worker Farm is such an inspiration and their dedication simply outstanding.

The teams have raised more than £2000 in sponsorship which will go to two charities: Toybox, working with street children in Latin America and Revelation Life, whose work is changing the lives of children in the slums of Uganda.

For more information on St Dominic's Sixth Form College in Harrow, see:

Tags: Fair World Week, Slum survivors, St Dominic's Sixth Form College in Harrow

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