Tonight, two Catholic school principals will brave the Winter freeze and sleep on the streets of Newcastle.
But don’t worry – they haven’t become homeless.
Rather, the two principals, from the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, are hoping to use the experience in order to raise money for homeless people.
Statistically, more than 100,000 people experience homelessness on any given night. Many of them seek shelter in crisis accommodation facilities run by organisations like the St Vincent de Paul society.
St James’, Muswellbrook, principal, Niamh Marzol, said that as uncomfortable as it is to sleep on the street, nothing compares to the discomfort of those forced to do it daily.
This is the third year that Marzol – who said she likes to lead by example – will participate in the annual St Vinnies CEO Sleepout, along with 54 business leaders from across the region.
“The first year was very confronting as we heard from people who had been assisted by Matthew Talbot House and who opened up and basically told their life stories,” Marzol told The Educator.
“To see grown men ‘bare all’ in front of a group of CEOs was so moving that I spent that session wiping tears from my eyes.”
She said the night in the cold was as expected – uncomfortable and chilly.
“However, I was surprised how sleep prevailed although I felt like I had earned the sponsorship money by the morning. It was a good feeling to know that I had experienced a little of what others experience often,” she said.
“Last year I did it again as there is such a need for funds and I am in a position to be able to participate.”
She said that this time, the talks were “not as difficult to take in” and that she was able to interact in small groups with people who had experienced homelessness, asking them questions about their experiences.
“It was not quite as confronting as the emotion in the conversations was not there. It was more matter of fact,” she said.
“This year I am pleased to be able to do it again and my school and another local school are behind me – wearing PJs to school and donating a gold coin for the privilege. My staff and family and friends are also very generous in giving their support.”
Marzol said that she will participate in the local Sleepout with students next year so they can share the experience.
“I think it will be more real for them if they are part of it,” she said.
“I always take the opportunity to put articles or my own thoughts about serious issues in the newsletters and speak to students about charitable works when appropriate.”
On Tuesday, St Joseph’s, East Maitland, principal, Anthony Weir, told Mnnews.today that his experience as a St Vincent de Paul volunteer has opened his eyes to the complex issues surrounding those who do not have the luxury of a roof over their heads.
“I have met people who live in caravans, who “couch surf” and those who live out of their cars,” he said.
“There are more complex issues that need to be addressed and through this experience, I am hoping to broaden my own awareness and to raise awareness of the issue in my community.
“I am very appreciative of the financial support which is going to the St Vincent de Paul Society and pray that it makes a difference to the lives of those around me.”
So far, the group of Hunter business people has collectively raised more than $60,000 but they are still seeking donations.
To support Niamh or Anthony, please donate here and here.