News and Events

Covenant House Sleep Out: Student Edition 2023

Last night went down as the coldest Sleep Out we’ve ever done – minus 4 but definitely colder with the windchill!

For the past 10 years our grade nine students have chosen to support Covenant House for their community service project. Each year students fundraise towards Sleep Out: Student Edition – they sleep outside for one night, so vulnerable youth don’t have to.

In those 10 years our students have raised over $85,000 for Covenant House to support housing, counselling, programming and food. This is the most any school in Vancouver has ever raised! We even got a shout out from actor Ryan Reynolds two years for the students incredible success!

Listen to Covenant House’s Podcast of the interviews they did with the students.

The grade nines really appreciated that they could come inside to a warm school and yummy breakfast. They also have a greater appreciation of what homeless youth would be experiencing on a cold February night.

They had spent January and February fundraising and spreading awareness of the work Covenant House (our partner) does with homeless youth in Vancouver. Their efforts paid off to the tune of $7,645 and growing! Well done students and thank you donors! The fundraising link is live for another month so we’ll keep checking. Kari, Isaac and Finn also recorded a podcast with Covenant House this morning and Noam is creating a short video about the experience. We’ll post those initiatives as they go live.

For the first time since Covid 19 the students volunteered at Covenant House sorting clothes and talking to the youth outreach workers. We then split into small groups and walked around the city with only a toonie to buy dinner. We took public transit back to Bowen to sleep outside behind IPS. In our debrief last night, the students were mature and thoughtful discussing their observations and emotions during the walkabout downtown. Below are some of the reflections they wrote about their experience. As you can see, this was an eye opening and worthwhile experience to build empathy and awareness for others in different circumstances.

Read about Island Pacific School’s history of service with Covenant House. 

Student Reflections

I’ve experienced, for one night, some of the problems of a homeless youth but I don’t really know the emotions hidden inside someone. A perfect way to think about this is like rock climbing. I have a safety harness and they are climbing free solo. Though I do not want to fall down, I can still take risks knowing that they would lead to minor consequences. However, for them, they can’t make mistakes- the consequences are so much higher.

I found it interesting that small acts of kindness that we witnessed seemed 10x more powerful. It’s like if someone shines a light in a dark room you notice the effect of the light way more.

I do not feel good. I never do in the mornings, but I really feel it now. I’m still cold. I’m tired. I’m uncomfortable and there is no way I can go to school and feel confident in my abilities. If I was homeless I’d feel this everyday… I am not going to forget tonight.

When we were first getting into our sleeping bags, I realized I wasn’t warming up and I felt a kind of dread. I kind of assumed it would be warm enough to be comfortable but I took that feeling for granted. I cannot imagine how that night was for someone without a sleeping bag.

I felt almost hopeless but also motivated to try and help and make a difference. Even though I might not be able to make a big impact – starting small is always something.

Thanks everyone for your support!

Jennifer Henrichsen
Assistant Head
Island Pacific School
jennifer.henrichsen@islandpacific.org