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The 5 Days Blog

Reflections of a Campaign Director

Hi everyone, 

My name is Emma Sullivan and I am the 5 Days Campaign Director at the University of British Columbia. I returned this year to direct the campaign after being a participant in UBC’s 2015 campaign!

I know that writing blog posts typically falls in the realm of the participants but I thought that it would be a great way for me to reflect on this campaign. (Warning – brevity has never been my strong suit so expect this to be very long). 

Going into the fall I had a lot of momentum coming out of my experience last spring. There was so much I loved about the campaign but also so many aspects that I wanted to change. Here are some of things I decided to focus on this year with the campaign and with the participants; my hope was to build a foundation and a structure to grow even more in the future: 

–  Building empathy / awareness and sparking a conversation – Even in the context of this campaign, our participants benefit from privileges that the homeless community doesn’t – being able to stay on campus without being kicked out, having food provided by friends, being able to easily access a bathroom, knowing that the campaign is only 5 days…the list goes on. The participants have seen a small part of the picture which helps develop empathy in them and in UBC but the point is to use our privilege to draw attention to an issue that isn’t normally observed or recognized in the privileged UBC community. 

– Don’t put people in a box – If there’s one thing I learned from the campaign this year and last, it’s that everyone has their own story.  It’s not in my place to judge anyone or to make assumptions. Rather, I should take time to listen and that’s where the best conversations and learnings happen.

– Understanding that we aren’t a voice for the homeless – Our participants have never been homeless. They don’t claim to speak for the homeless. Rather, the goal is to act as a whistle-blower and to draw attention to an issue that slips under radar on this campus.

– Land acknowledgment – We would like to acknowledge that we are and have been learning and un-learning on the ancestral, traditional, unceded territory of the Musqueam people. (It is incredibly important for us to understand that so much of homelessness comes from systemic problems – it is up to us to change them). 

– Sponsorship – It will be important for future campaign directors to consider where sponsorships come from; are sponsors contributing back to the issue of homelessness? (This year, 100% of donations came from private individuals although the Manchester was kind enough to host our launch party).

I think these improvements went a long way in addressing issues brought up in previous years. It was really frustrating for me when people would come up to us (mostly in the first and second days of the campaign) and criticize us based on outdated information of how the campaign was run. It’s so hard not to take the criticism personally and I had some emotional lows in the first part of the week.

However, it was clear that my participants were having great conversations that really conveyed these changes and reflected the issues involved because there was much less criticism as the week progressed. One thing that is interesting to note is that donations are significantly lower on-site when participants focus on the issues surrounding homelessness rather than on their own personal struggles.

On that note, I want to thank my lovely participants – their energy and passion this week is what had me getting out of bed before 8am every morning (something that most of my friends would agree is a feat in and of itself). I really value the little moments we had together: laughing at Jason’s low-key humor, Elaine’s presentation to our sorority, my inside jokes with Cam, hearing about Hajar’s celeb crushes, rolling my eyes (but smiling) as Jordan tried to get me out of my comfort zone, watching Rad play guitar, appreciating Adeline’s donut-eating finesse, temporarily borrowing Peter’s sleeping bag while he was in it. IMG_1063

Something that was really unique to the role of Director was the ability to watch everyone’s growth from the very first interview with me to the final day at the end of the campaign. Each participant came in with such a genuine desire to learn – to make a difference – and that inspired me when I was pushing through the exhaustion of managing the campaign and monitoring negative criticism. Throughout the week, I was so proud to see the quality of the conversations develop as participants learned from their experiences and channeled that into their future interactions. I admire how everyone leaned on each other during the hard conversations, when the exhaustion hit, when approaching people felt uncomfortable, etc. 

One of my favorite parts about this year’s campaign was the way that my participant team this year bonded into ‘The Fam’ and formed true friendships that I know will last beyond the scope of the campaign. I count myself very lucky to have been able to be a part of that. I hope that in future years, everyone will come back together to support the campaign as it continues at UBC!  

As the campaign finishes up, I want to give a huge ‘THANK YOU’ to everyone who has supported my team and I (whether it be in the months leading up to the campaign where I was losing my mind planning out every detail or in the week of the campaign). S/o to my amazing planning committee for doing everything I asked of them and more!

To anyone that hasn’t already, it would be amazing if you could support me in something I’ve put my heart and soul into all year by donating online to support Directions Youth Services. (Thank you!) 

I’ll leave you with one final thought – something that we originally heard from our visit to Directions Youth Services and something that has stayed with me through the entire campaign: 

“If homelessness is someone’s solution, what is the problem?”

Cheers, Emma 

Adeline – Night 5

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I can’t believe this is the last blog post I’ll be writing on here! I don’t even know where to begin to sum up the past 5 days, but I’ll start by recapping our last full day and night. 
 
The sun was shining this Thursday, and I spent the earlier portion of the day outside trying to strike up conversations and soaking in the warmth. I will admit, with each day of the campaign I felt a little more drained and more exhausted. But I feel like having the support of the other participants and planning committee helped me summon up the energy and fire to keep going. I tried to take advantage of the last hours of the campaign to share the issue of youth homelessness to as many people as possible. I spent the evening volunteering at a food bank, where I was able to share some of my experiences with people who recognized my orange t-shirt. 
 
Our nightly meetings have been a huge highlight this week, and it was bittersweet to have our last one. It was definitely the most heartfelt, humorous, emotional, joke-y, fun, cohesive gathering we’ve had. I nearly didn’t want to go to sleep last night just because it meant that the end of 5 Days for the Homeless would be that much nearer. We’ll be going home in a few hours but that doesn’t mean the campaign is ending. The issue of homelessness is ongoing and there isn’t a single solution, but it is up to individuals and society to do what they can to help. I can only hope that we’ve highlighted the issue to some people, and I need to be less complacent about such issues that aren’t all that apparent on campus but prevalent in our cities. 
 
All the participants that I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out, eating, sleeping, doing life with, etc. this week are truly amazing and I can honestly say that I didn’t feel a single awkward moment considering most of us didn’t know each other prior to the campaign. I’m going to miss fighting The Fam for the last chocolate Timbit. 
 
Most people who have talked to me probably already know that I struggle to put my thoughts into words, but I might write one last blog post in a couple days to attempt to share my overall thoughts and reflections on 5 Days. 
 
Massive thank you to everyone who has donated money, fed us, kept us caffeinated, smiled, checked in on our wellbeing, listened to our spiel, and more.
 
Favorite thing of today: Getting the chance to share our raw and honest thoughts about each participant, so much love!

Rad – Night 5

Day 5 was a blast. A good friend and 2015 participant, Roya brought her guitar and played amazing tunes. Jordan and I used this as an opportunity to draw a crowd in! We made 2 signs: one that read “FREE HUGS” and another that read “DELUXE HUGS $2”. At first it was challenging to bring people in, but slowly more and more people started approaching us for hugs and donations. My favorite moment of the day was when a large group of Japanese students ( grade 8 maximum) approached us for hugs. We ended up making a huge circle with everyone (about 40 people) for a group hug.

Now I want to reflect over the past 5 days.

It has been amazing. I can say with confidence I felt truly alive. Getting to know the other participants, talking with people about the campaign, and depending on the kindness of strangers has taught me so much. Before 5 Days started, my motivation for joining this was mostly just to see if I could do it. If I could sleep outside in the cold for 5 days and come out the other side. Selfish. But after learning about Directions Youth Service, and talking to countless strangers about the problem of youth homlessness in Vancouver, I realized that this campaign is much bigger than myself. What everyone in this campaing did, sleeping outside, does not nearly come close to the challenges faced by the homeless in Vancouver. I believe that this campaign allowed me to develop and become a much more compassionate human being.

If youwould like to donate to Directions Youth Services, please do so here: 5days.ca/participants/rad

All the best,

Rad

Jason – Night 5

IMG_1067This is our last day and like most things, it’s bittersweet. All of the people we have encountered during our campaign were so great to get the chance to meet and talk to, from an array of social issues to morning greetings.

It felt like we were not only trying to get the message out there about homeless youth, but at the same time reigniting the spark in people’s eyes that is so rarely seen when one is so involved with their online social community instead of the one that is physically in front of them. This experience acted as a sort of wake-up call to the daily distractions we allow ourselves to chase blindly; it gave us a break, because instead of jumping on the newest developments around the world, we were instead searching for the past in each other to recognize how that has translated into the person in front of us.

I believe sharing experiences is the greatest possible way one can learn, and the stories we have exchanged have brought us much closer then we probably anticipated. Each of us carried something different and unique to the circle, and having an opportunity like that, where you are surrounded by people different than you, is where the strongest bonds are formed; because even when you may be nervous or hesitant, there is always a link that can be found that makes a voice in your head scream a thousand ideas you want to say at the same time.

That voice right there stems from the connection you made with someone; and if finding that can make an individual so happy and open, why are we ignoring every chance we have with every human we pass by, glance across the room from, eat dinner next to, or stand in the bus behind? What are we afraid of?

Every day I learned something new and had more questions for myself as to what I am doing here, but there never is an answer you can be satisfied with. There are only an infinite amount of possibilities of which we will only get the chance to live one of. But I am grateful to have chosen to live through this possibility in my life, and love the people I had the chance to share these five days with.

Peter – Night 5

IMG_1064Day 5: As the renowned Canadian lyricist Drake once wrote, “Started from the bottom, now we here.”

Seems like only 4 days ago we were collected cardboard in the pouring rain to make our beds, not knowing how the week would turn out. Now here we are, still sleeping on that cardboard outside the bookstore. Only now we are comfortable sitting in complete silence amongst each other, which I consider to be a huge testament to how much closer the group has grown throughout the week.

I don’t think anyone could have anticipated how this experience would have turned out, especially considering virtually none of us knew each other well before the start of the week. Over the course of the 5 days we’ve had countless meaningful conversations with strangers, informing them about the issue of youth homelessness, but also innumerable invaluable conversations with each other.

It’s been crazy witnessing the personal growth these have had over the course of this week when we were all strangers 6 days ago. I’m glad I get 7 new faces I can wave and say hi to when I see them on campus (or pretend I’m on my phone and slink past if it’s a bad day). Even though I didn’t know what to expect going into this week, I’m so happy I decided to participate in this campaign. I look forward to seeing the change we can make in youth homelessness as a result of participating in this event.

Elaine – Night 5

Writing this blog post on the morning of day 5, I am finding it hard to remember the thoughts and experiences I had on day 4. The days are very long, but when reflecting back on the week it seems very short. I am definitely physically and mentally drained, but not any less thankful for the opportunity to preach about this cause and to bond with the enlightening participants. Unfortunately, due to my physical and mental state, it is hard for me to stay focused on the task at hand- collecting funds for Directions Youth Services. At times I have turned my attention to my personal struggle, rather than the overarching cause we are attempting to promote- something I’m not proud of. 
 
Today I went to work, coaching gymnastics, and as I trek across campus I realized how “stupid” I looked bundled up with a giant backpack on my back, carrying a plethora of possessions, and giant hiking boots. I stopped into the bathroom to change and try to look more presentable before facing the parents, children and co-workers. I felt as though I couldn’t fully immerse myself in the class I was coaching because I was worried I smelled, or I was so tired, or I just a bit distant from my co-workers who might not really understand the campaign I was participating in. I love the campaign, but am exhausted from explaining it and my situation to people. These parallels made me reflect on the potential feeling of judgement and certain details of a youth holding a job, yet still homeless. Again, everything is just a little bit more frustrating and harder- carrying all your things, the energy required for a project (work), professional appearances, all these may create barriers to full and fulfilled participation in society (if that’s even one’s end goal because it might not be for everyone).
 
I am sad to say that I have no enlightening ending words, except to continue to reiterate that I have learned so much from this campaign and hope that people have learned from me as well. 
 
Today’s Elaine Support Staff shout out goes to Emma Sullivan, my roommate and director of the campaign. I know I am doing well in life when I am inspired by the women I surround myself with and Emma is truly an inspirational soul. Her leadership abilities, no BS style and passion for the campaign has done wonders for the cause and me as person. I feel lucky to call someone with such a good and compassionate head on her shoulders my friend. Thank you for all the work you have done for Directions Youth Services and I would love to help you with many more projects.
 
 -Tired but happy Lil’ Lainers over and out 

Cameron – Night 5

IMG_1069Today was the final full day of the campaign. It was really upsetting to know that I would be indoors most of the day because Thursday is the busiest day of the week for me. I wanted to be outside fundraising for the campaign rather than cooped up in class.

After living outside, it is really hard for me to focus on a projector/ monitor. I forgot how amazing it is outside. People-watching is trait my grandma taught me and my siblings and it is unfortunate that the older I got, the less things I do that actually make me happy. 

That’s why I am so grateful to be a part of this campaign. I want to go into Public Health, (Do not ask me which part of Public Health though because I am interested in so many different streams of Public Health), and all I want to do in my life to help people and give back to the community. This is the first time in my undergraduate life that I was able to do that.

Each and every person that took part in this program are absolutely phenomenal and I will not forget them.

Hajar – Night 5

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I started Day 4 so motivated. The sun was up. There was music. Free and Deluxe hugs going around. The campaign was almost over, and I wanted to give it my best. I went out in the sun, approached people, talked about 5 Days and Directions Youth Services. I had some real conversations, and it was so rewarding when people asked us questions and you can sense that they were listening. I also got a couple of donations and refereed a couple of people who wanted to know more to our website. Being more proactive was one of my highlights.

The issue of homelessness is real and present, just because we are not exposed to it on campus, doesn’t mean it is not there or it is not our responsibility. The campaign has given us a way to shed some light on the issue, but to also a platform to discuss the issue, learn more about it, and showed us that we are social being and we need to talk to other people, and support each other. I am so proud to be part of a community that can do the same for marginalized and under-privileged people.

We’re heading towards the end of the campaign, I urge you if you haven’t already to help support Directions Youth Services and homeless youth in Vancouver: www.5days.ca/schools/ubc

Playing Cards Against Humanity for the first time, and getting to know everyone’s sense of humor (including my own dark humor *shake my head*) and just seeing a brand new side of Cam *finger snaps* was pretty amazing. We all laughed so much.

On a more personal note:
As a reserved person, and a self-declared introvert, starting the campaign was nerve racking. This is the first time I have done something completely out of my comfort zone, and on my own. When I first met the other participants, most of them already knew one another, or were already good friends. Realizing that totally freaked me out, I just figured that I would just be left out. I would be the “odd on out”, my quiet nature and having to study for a midterm do not help my case. 

Boy was I wrong, so wrong! There isn’t a single person who have not initiated a conversation with me, or included me in theirs, always making sure that I was well-fed, warm, and supported. At the end of the day, sharing what we enjoyed about each other, and having everyone wholeheartedly share such nice compliments just highlighted how great we were together *the feels*. I was not emotionally prepared for that, so if I didn’t convey it properly, I want to say thank you kindly to each one of you. You have helped me grow so much in so little time. You have made my experience so much more meaningful, and in the process helped make me a better person. And I hope that I can translate that, and affect people I meet the same way.

It was our last night, huddled-up in our sleeping back, and we all knew it. The 1 minute of silence at the end of the night (whilst having a group hug) eventually turned into 30 seconds of silent laughter just reflects how well we were as a group, or as Elaine likes to say “The Fam”. At that moment, all I could think of, that the eight of us will always have this bond, this shared experience.

University of Guelph – Night 5

Hello, its me Taylor here!  Well, it has been one  hell of a long week but we are finally on day 5! After 5 exhausting nights I have finally realized the small things that I have taken for granted. Whether it be a warm bed to sleep in or even the security of a roof above my head, I NOW know how lucky I am. I am so overwhelmed by the support of the Guelph community I can’t even put it into words. But enough about me… this campaign isn’t about myself or the 4 others sleepers; its about spreading awareness that homeless youth IS a issue and it can be addressed! I am positive my 4 other sleepers can vouch when I say we have met  SO many interesting and inspirational people these past 5 days.  For instance, 2 nights ago around 1am myself , the  4 other sleepers and 4 guest sleepers were lounging around our new “home” when someone stumbled across us. After about a half hour of conversing, Brandon (our new friend) told us that he in fact was homeless since he was 15, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood across the country. He came to Guelph and is now working towards a neuroscience degree hoping to one day be a psychiatrist.  He couldn’t thank us enough for spreading awareness across campus but really….. WE couldn’t thank him for stopping and sharing his experiences with us. So Brandon, if you stumble across this, cheers to you! I guess you could say that was the moment I realized why exactly I was participating in this campaign. Once again I am so unbelievably overwhelmed by the generosity of the community and I am so proud Guelph has come together to support this campaign. I think it is safe to say every time I walk by the UC courtyard I will have a mile-wide smirk on my face as I replay these past 5 days. 

Best, Taylor 

 

 

The Last Night

Ameet

Hello… it’s me, I’ve been blogging so sporadically that no one here knows me. To go over canvassing, is impossible for me to type here without me freezing, My hands are so numb and I brought pizza but no one wants these crumbs. That’s all I got for rhymes, so I’ll see you all next time. 

Stephanie

Its the final night!! I can’t believe that this experience is almost over! Not gonna lie, I’m kind of excited to shower tomorrow. And my one drama professor keeps telling me I stink but he’s just sassy so I guess its okay. I really hope we were able to meet our goal this week but its hard to know. I know I’ve been really happy to be able to raise awareness but it’d be even better if we reached our goal. Last night was a bit of a challenge. I had a meeting until late last night so by the time I got back everyone was asleep and Ameet was snoring a lot so it was a challenge to fall asleep hahaha. But waking up in the snow was awful. But we have one more night to go. I think we can do it, I think I can do it. It’s a little bittersweet to think that this experience is going to be over tomorrow. 

Andrea

Final night! I can’t believe it. It’s so weird how the time passes here. The week feels like a blur of timbits and fatigue, but its almost coming to an end. It is a bit bittersweet. I’ve sort of gotten accustomed to waking up in front of the SU building with my buds and spending all day everyday outside, as odd as it sounds. I’m starting to get asked about the full experience, what I’ve learned, if I would do it again etc. I think if I had to fully answer some of those questions it would be quite the lengthy discussion. But overall I have experienced something that has changed my perspective in many ways.

Izzie

The food keeps coming. The temperature keeps dropping. But morale is high. Thank you for everyone who has donated so far, but please keep spreading the word and getting your friends to donate online. We need to make this final push strong. We need donations of money more than food. Please don’t give up on us. The stars will keep shining either way.