My Sleepout for Llamau.
On Friday 7th November, along with my friend Lucy, I took part in Sleepout. The annual event raises money for Llamau – a charity that helps homeless young people and vulnerable women in Wales.
We spent the night outside in the cold and rain. Whilst this by no means tried to replicate what it’s like to spend a real night on the streets with no food, shelter or safety, we were both still dreading it!
I knew from colleagues who had taken part the previous year that we would have a roof over our heads – a sort of canopy – but no sides. But my main worry was being cold. I hate being cold. I can be at home with my heating on at 22C and still moan that I’m cold! So I made sure I was well-prepared for this.
The afternoon of Sleepout I went through my checklist (yes I had a checklist) and laid everything out on my bed. I was actually quite impressed with the amount of gear I had!
- Full length lycra running bottoms
- Long sleeve top
- Hooded sweater
- Padded jacket
- Waterproof trousers
- Waterproof coat
- Fleece socks
- Wellies with fleece lining
- Gloves (2 pairs)
- Hand warmers x 4
- Hats x 3 (I don’t actually know how I expected to get 3 hats on my head)
- Sleeping bag
Then came the crunch test….could I actually get all this gear on at the same time? It’s all well and good having it all, but it’s not very often you attempt to wear 4 layers at once. Luckily it worked and I left the house looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. But at least I’d be warm!
We arrived at Sleepout at 7.00pm and were directed into a marquee for an evening of entertainment and fundraising before we had to go to “bed” at midnight. We both made donations to have our faces painted, for some delicious chilli con carne and bought some raffle tickets. It had been raining for most of the day but since we arrived at Sleepout it had been dry and we both commented on how lucky we were.
What a big mistake that was! At 11.50pm we were sent to collect our sleeping bags and make our way to the Sleep Zones. And right on cue the heavens opened!! We quickly laid down our cardboard onto the already wet floor, picked up our outer sleeping bags (which I can only describe as very large potato sacks), shoved in our sleeping bags and then crawled inside ready for a 6 hour “sleep”.
It wasn’t as cold as I thought and I was so tired that I fell asleep straight away! But just over an hour later I was woken by the rain beating down on my face. The wind had picked up and was blowing the rain under the canopy. I tried to shuffle down away from the edge but there was no room. My pillow was soaked through apart from a tiny area where my head had been so I quickly lay back down to keep it dry. It was so difficult to get back to sleep. I’d anticipated being kept awake by the cold but there were so many other things that stopped me from drifting back to sleep. Firstly the rain – not just getting wet, but the sound of it. It was so loud! Then there were the street lights – I need it to be pitch black to fall asleep so this didn’t help. Then there was the noise of the traffic on the main road which seemed to be busy for most of the night. And then before I knew it the birds were up singing at about 3am.
By this point I was feeling a little bit grumpy. I was tired, my back hurt, my hair was wet….and I was boiling hot!! So began the mission to take off the outer layer of clothing without getting out of my potato sack. It took me about 10 minutes to remove my coat and waterproof trousers! After this I think I might have dozed off only to be woken again at 5.30am by another horrendous downpour. The rain was bouncing off the floor and into the Sleep Zone and water was running along the ground where my cardboard did it’s best to soak it up. I sat up and looked around – there was nowhere I could move to escape the rain. I’d had enough now. I was ready to go home. The majority of the other sleepers were up too. Finally we heard the call from Frances Beecher, CEO of Llamau telling us that we could get up and come and get some coffee. There was a huge sigh of relief from everyone followed by cheers and we all packed up our soggy belongings and headed to the marquee. By this point my pillow was like a gigantic sponge. It was so wet that it was actually heavy and when I picked it up water ran out of the bottom!
I headed straight home. All I could think of when I crawled into my cosy, warm bed was that if I was homeless, I’d now be spending the day in my wet clothes – unable to dry off or change into anything else. I don’t know how people cope.
So although we’re not pretending that this event was even half as difficult as what it’s really like to sleep on the streets, it definitely gets you thinking and raises awareness. And of course, more importantly it raises money to help those that homelessness is a reality for.
Would I do it again? I think so. In fact, I’m hoping to get a team together to take part next year.
Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me so far, and if you’d like to donate also, you can do so by visiting the JustGiving page.