Why I chose to sleep outside for a week

Hi! My name is Giorgia and I decided take on an Inequality Challenge from April 13th and April 17th.

My challenge is to sleep in my garden for 5 days. My purpose is to personally live the lack of a bed and a warm house around me, as street-connected children are used to.

I think it will be difficult to fall asleep in those conditions, but it will be an opportunity for reflecting on inequalities.

Why am I doing this?

Because millions of children do not see recognised the right to have a house or a shelter and the right to sleep, so I would like to think about it and reflect on what is essential and fundamental in daily life and sensitise on this matter.

I am also raising funds for S.A.L.V.E. and you can donate to support children who are living on the streets here.

DAY 1

Yesterday night was the first one: I decided to lay in the most hidden corner of my garden, next to the wall, to feel safe. Since the beginning, I knew that my choice was deliberate and it was the safest place I could have thought of. It was for sure more exposed than sleeping inside, but it was still a safe place, next to my house, where my parents were sleeping. This made me think that for street-connected children, every night represents a new research of a place that can remind them of their homes, a place that can make them feel safe.

After choosing my position, I wore my warmest pile pajama, a pair of socks and a wool hat. I put on the soil a fitness cloth, a sleeping bag, a blanket and a pillow. I was really afraid of getting a cold! While I was making all these small decisions by choosing between lots of possibilities (pile pajama or flannel? Will my foot be cold? What about the head? Better with a hat), I thought of the ease and immediateness of my possibilities. I could open a drawer and I could find the most suitable and cleanest thing I need. This is different for a street-connected child: clothes become their inseparable friends, something they never leave. His clothes are always with him, get dirty, get destroyed with them during the street life. Clothes that they did not choose, do not represent them, but emprisoned them and oblige them to play a role, to acquire an identity, to be labeled as street-connected children.

Around midnight, I decided to “go to bed”. For an unquantifiable time- my phone was without charge and I could not tell how many hours- my eyes remained wide opened, my ears were listening carefully to every noises. I was extremely watchful and ready to catch every noises, every switches or every moving shadows. I was afraid of the dark around me and I kept thinking about the animals that could have come out from their shelters during the night. A mouse, a toad, a cockroach. Nothing particularly dangerous, but I was scared.

I tried to think about the dangers street-children can fear in the slum of Kawangware, in Nairobi. I was there some years ago and I met some of them. I thought that having been there and met them could have helped me to find out their fears. But instead I understood that I cannot even imagine their emotions and their fears. I cannot think about the dangers they can encounter in the streets and how they can sleep with this fear. Sleeping is a right, but for thousands of children that is not granted.

Time was passing and among other worries I started to be concerned that, without enough sleep, the next day it would have been hard to carry on with my job and my everyday activities.

I was worried about working, studying, being able to drive, waking up early…when street-connected children look at the future, instead, they are probably worried about food, health, if they will have enough energy to dive in the garbage to earn a meal…

Even though I try to experience some of the disparity between my life and the one of street-connected children through this challenge, I realize with every step that my conditions are so far and privileged that I cannot even remotely compare them with what these children experience on a daily basis.

My concerns are far less crucial than the fear of not finding food or surviving the next day.

DAY 2

This second night it rained. Differently from the first night, this second night I had a tent where I could sleep. The rain, over my tent, lulled me into a deep sleep. During the night, I thought that I was lucky to have sa shelter over my head, and that  street-connected children is not the same. For them, it is not so easy to find and occupy a place to protect themselves from the weather.

Disputes between street-connected children arise to get the best place for the night. Issues that I cannot even imagine, problems that I never experienced. My bed has always been important for me, since I was born and I cannot imagine how could be to wait for the night for these children, what it means to fall asleep every night in a different place, exposed to danger and alone.

This is maybe why the group becomes fundamental for street-connected children, a replacement of other groups that have previously failed (family, school, home, etc..). A friend becomes a brother who watches your back when you’re sleeping, who helps you to defend yourself, limping together in a world that can be very cruel.

As I felt the drops hitting my waterproof tent, wrapped in my warm sleeping bag, I thought again about the disparity between my condition and the one of many children. When I chose this challenge, sleeping in the garden instead of sleeping in my bed, I thought that I would have understood better what they feel during the nights outside. But actually I cannot understand. Too much distance exists between our lives and how much injustice lays behind our world.

While the rain was falling and outside it’s dark, I felt asleep more easily than the previous night. I stopped thinking about the risks, the noises, the dangers, the animals and the tiredness arrived. I thought again about the children, their exhaustion, and about how they can fall asleep in the streets, certainly more insidious and dangerous than my garden.

I found myself thinking: “this is not right and fair”

DAY 3-4-5

I haven’t updated the blog for the last couple days because I was quite tired from work which made the challenge even harder to complete. During the last nights, the bad weather and all the typical night noises were continuously waking me up and I even had to get up a couple times to readjust the tent cover that was blown away by the wind. If it was hard to fall asleep under the rain, the  back pain from standing up for 13 hours while working made it even harder.

Every morning I felt more and more tired and I often found myself complaining about this choice, getting nervous, and hardly making it to the end of the day. I cannot even imagine what it is like when you have no other choice, and in addition to a bed you also don’t have food, water, or a family that supports you.

In my case, I’m only giving up to my bed, but for street children this is just one of the many challenges they have to face.

Conclusion

I hope this experience can be useful for whoever is reading this blog to reflect about how lucky we are and about all the challenges that street children have to cope with day by day. They need and deserve our help and each of us can make his own small difference by contributing to the great work of S.A.L.V.E. International.

This challenge has been a great opportunity for me to think about my privileges and to realize how many things I take for granted without feeling thankful or lucky. More importantly, it has been a strong experience that has allowed me to better understand the life of street-connected children and the challenges they face. I really don’t know how I’d survive if I were in their conditions.

I’m glad that now more people are concerned with this dramatic issue and I’m hopeful that with everyone’s effort things can change for better, reducing the gap between ours and their life, giving up to some of our privileges to help them meet their basic needs.

Good luck everyone with your life and thanks for everything!

Giorgia

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