Birmingham’s CEOSleepout at Villa Park saw thirty four leading business figures spend the night on the stands of the football stadium to raise funds for Church Urban Fund, Thrive Together Birmingham, Villa in the Community, and other local charities. Below are some reflections on the event by Church Urban Fund Communications Officer Lynsey Robinson.
'A real eye- opener’
As the night began to unfold the reality of the hard ground and the dread of the cold soon hit. One by one the group of 34 CEO’s were confronted with the reality faced nightly by rough sleepers. Writing in his blog, Mark Rogers, CEO of Birmingham City Council, recalled that event was 'a real eye- opener.'
Settling down for night
It was humbling to watch leading figures, such as Tom Fox, Chief Executive of Aston Villa Football Club, the Rt Rev. David Urqhuhart, Bishop of Birmingham, and former Aston Villa player Ian Taylor lay out cardboard boxes and climb into their sleeping bags for the night- I imagine a far cry from their usual routine. Others took great pride in creating shelters out of their boxes (see our Joint Ventures Development Manager Jon Miles pictured below). Little sleep was had and the tweets continued well into the night encouraging supporters to donate. This may have had something to do with the bells on Raj Shroff's hat, pictured below.
In the morning the ‘sleepers’ were treated to bacon rolls and strong cups of coffee by the volunteers from Aston Parish Church, which helped ease away the pain of the sleepless night. This was organised by vicar Andy Jolley who also took part in the sleepout.
This experience of sleeping rough may pale in comparison with that of the thousands of men and women who have to live this reality night after night. However the 34 CEO’s involved raised much needed awareness of the issue of homelessness and helped raise vital funds for the charities involved.
Their support will impact many lives. It is inspiring to see such influential leaders choose to sacrifice their comfort in this way and it reminded me of a quote from Dr Seuss’ ‘The Lorax’, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not."
From all at Church Urban Fund we would like to say thank you to all those involved and for all the incredibly generous donations. Amazingly, we have now raised almost £30, 000 with even more money set to come in!
Take a look at our Birmingham CEOSleepout Storify to see all the tweets and lots of the pictures from the night.
Author: Lynsey Robinson
Date: 20 May 2015
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