After being selected to represent the Eastern Cape at the CEO SleepOut in Johannesburg earlier this year, Grade 11 pupil Mandilakhe Nthuthu from Nombulelo Secondary School created a similar activity in his hometown of Grahamstown.
The CEO Sleepout is an initiative to raise funds and awareness about the plight of homeless people and those who do not have ready access to education in South Africa.
Mandilakhe, who grew up in a children’s home for boys aged between eight and 18, invited youths from neighbouring schools to participate in a SleepOut, where the pupils collectively slept at a quad on the Nombulelo premises.
Pupils from neighbouring schools including Lutho Libi, Viwe Cimi, Harry Sandell and Graham De Vos volunteered to help out and participate.
The sleepout, which took place last week, kicked off in the evening with introductions and then a youth dialogue where 30 young participants stood around a makeshift fire pit and discussed what they could do to help reduce homelessness in the country.
Mandilakhe shared his experiences of having to sleep on the streets growing up.
Bread was broken and a meal arranged by the Nombulelo Nutrition Project made sure that bellies were full before they settled in for the night curled up on flattened cardboard boxes.
Mandilakhe hopes the sleepout will spur some action among the youths involved.
“We were protected from the cold by sleeping bags, which is more than most people living on the street have access to. Despite this luxury, the frost of the evening set in and this, coupled with the new environment and sounds, made sleep very difficult,” he said.
“All in all, it was a very positive experience and a great way to gain some perspective, as well as a deeper understanding of some of the challenges faced by many in our country and across the world. Hopefully the youth who came to the sleepout will be inspired to make a difference in their communities.” — firstname.lastname@example.org