Sleepy students raise thousands for Crawley Open House

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Students gave the town’s homeless population an early Christmas present after shivering their way through an all-night fundraiser.

Seven staff and 67 students from St Wilfrid’s School, Southgate, raised £4,663.47 for Crawley Open House when they slept in the school grounds on Thursday (December 17).

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It may not have been the coldest winter night but fundraising co-ordinater, Sarah Gildea, said the reality quickly hit home among the youngsters how difficult it must be for people who have to sleep on the streets every night.

Headteacher Michael Ferry donned a Father Christmas onesie as he joined his students for the night – and so much money was raised, he had to honour a promise to also wear it on the last day of school.

Mr Ferry said the issue of homelessness in Crawley had been on his mind for a while after he learned a former student was living on the streets.

He added: “Then, in the summer, after hearing of the statistics for the homeless in the south east, I decided to speak to the students about the idea of trying to make homelessness history in Crawley and from these discussions the campaign started to grow.”

The students more than rose to the challenge. In October, Patrick Kerr, Erin Quinliven and Lucy O’Brien all took part in the Big Sleep-Out in Queens Square where their eyes were opened to the hardships faced by the town’s homeless.

Describing his students as “an absolute inspiration”, Mr Ferry said the sleep-out had been “one of the most moving experiences in the whole of my teaching career”.

He added: “It was great to see them stand up for social justice and think long and hard about the true meaning of homelessness.

“We were lucky, it was relatively mild and didn’t rain but it forced us to think of those people who endure this night after night without the company of friends, many of whom are alone.”

Charlie Arratoon, director of Crawley Open House, joined the sleep-out.

She said: “The total will continue to rise until the end of term, and will make a huge difference to the people that access Crawley Open House and the work that we can carry out.”

As they prepare to give Crawley’s homeless population a Christmas to remember, Open House is still in need of chocolate, soft drinks, party food and small presents for men.

If you can help, donations can be dropped off at Riverside House, Stephenson Way, Three Bridges, Crawley RH10 1TN.

Monetary donations can be made by calling 01293 447703 or you can donate via the Open House website.

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