“Don’t judge someone unless you have a walked a mile in their shoes”.

The grade 9’s at Island Pacific School practiced flipping their perspectives this year during community service work focused on youth homelessness. Last week grade 9’s spent the afternoon volunteering at Covenant House then tried to ‘walk a mile’ in the shoes of a street kid. After learning about the causes and realities for youth on the street they embarked on the action component. They raised an incredible $6,403 for Covenant House’s Sleep-Out program by seeking sponsorship and then sleeping outside , effectively taking the place of homeless youth for a night.  The evening started with a budget of two dollars for dinner in Gastown and the East Side.  Students then walked these downtown Vancouver neighbourhoods with the mission of observing their surroundings and trying to understand what it would be like to live differently. Returning to Bowen the same night, the group gathered around a fire and discussed their feelings and observations about what they had experienced that day.  Then they bedded down on thin mats and cardboard and slept behind the school.  As you can see from some of the excerpts taken from their reflections, this experience has opened their eyes and their hearts. A mile in someone’s shoes created feelings of compassion and empathy that are theirs to keep.

“What really upset me is knowing that life was maybe worse for kids -because of abuse –  at ‘home’ and that the street was better or their only option.”

“Our society is really affected by homelessness, and, in most cases it doesn’t even spare a glance, never mind a handful of change. If everyone could do a single sleep out, I’m sure the world would be a different place.”

“Last night I was surrounded in friends. When it struck me that these people really are alone in life it really impacted my thoughts. Now I will think of them with more respect for what they have to face on their own every day.”

“I think this experience with Covenant House will make me look differently at someone on the street. I can look at them knowing that they could have a bright future, even though they have had a bad past.”