It was bitterly cold, mentally exhausting and physically taxing, but in the end each moment spent sleeping outside was worth it for the Brock students who participated in last month’s 5 Days for the Homeless campaign.
The initiative, which had students camped outside of the Mackenzie Chown Complex from March 12 to 16, raised close to $9,000 in monetary and non-perishable food donations in support of Community Care St. Catharines and Thorold. Donations were collected until the end of March.
Led by the Goodman Business Students’ Association, a Goodman School of Business Club, the event was part of a national campaign that strives to raise awareness of youth homelessness.
Throughout the week, students gave up their beds, showers and hot meals, opting instead to sleep outside and eat only donated food. With the exception of homework and sharing their 5 Days for the Homeless experience through social media, they also gave up their use of technology and continued going to classes.
The experience left Breanne Van Den Breemen feeling both lucky and thankful to have a bed to return home to.
The 19-year-old Hamilton native has never known a life on the streets, but the cause remains close to her heart. Van Den Breemen has a close relative who experienced homelessness for many years and knows the toll it can take on a family.
While the second-year Brock Bachelor of Arts student expected the 5 Days campaign to be eye-opening, she could not anticipate the shift in perspective she experienced.
As she looks ahead to a career in teaching, Van Den Breemen says the experience has made her more mindful and respectful of her future students’ situations.
“I want to go into the teaching profession and I know I’ll be working with students who are going through difficult personal circumstances,” she said.
“There will always be a challenge in the classroom and although I recognize that I won’t know what every student is going through, participating in 5 Days for the Homeless has given me a greater respect for youth homelessness. Knowing that everyone has a different story is crucial to my future job as a teacher.”
Van Den Breemen said it was difficult to continue going to class during the week while her eating and sleeping patterns were constantly disrupted, which ultimately affected her focus.
“I’m grateful for this experience because it has made me more aware. At the end of the week I got to go home and sleep in my bed and there are a lot of people who don’t have the opportunity to do that,” she said.
Goodman School of Business Dean Andrew Gaudes said the national campaign gives students an opportunity for a life-changing experience.
“The connections and interactions the students made during the campaign will change how people see homelessness and how it affects everyone in our community,” he said.
“This is an incredible accomplishment and it’s clear that the efforts the students put into this campaign has reached into the hearts of the community and they have contributed in support of homelessness.”