YMCA Norfolk is calling on the Norfolk community to take on their Sleep Easy fundraising challenge – asking supporters to sleep rough for one night to raise vital funds and awareness for youth homelessness.
The charity is set to host Sleep Year 2023 on Friday 10 March at YMCA Norfolk’s Community Hub on Aylsham Road (Norwich), where fundraisers will leave to their warm beds for one night and sleep rough at the hub’s car park in make-shift cardboard boxes.
The challenge is hosted in partnership with sponsors, Ashton’s Legal, who have also entered a team to take part in the event alongside a number of other Norfolk businesses.
Stefan Mitham, Head of Marketing at Ashtons Legal, said: “At Ashtons Legal, our commitment to the community doesn’t stop when we leave the office at the end of each day. We believe It Is Important to contribute to life beyond work and improve the lives of those around us. We are proud of our commitment to the Sleep Easy challenge and some of our staff will experience first-hand the struggle our local young people face day to day”
“YMCA Norfolk do an amazing job with supporting our young people across the county and I hope we raise as much funds as possible so they can continue to make a difference.”
Sleep Easy is one of the charity’s biggest fundraising events of the year, and YMCA Norfolk will be joining YMCAs from across England and Wales in hosting the event, which first began in 2010. Since then, more than 7,000 fundraisers have slept rough across England in order to raise over vital funds for local YMCA services that assist young people in rebuilding their lives.
Hannah, 18, is a YMCA Norfolk housing member whose life has been drastically transformed by the charity’s support and accommodation services after her extremely challenging upbringing:
Hannah was sadly groomed into a relationship with a much older man at just 13-years old, living with him and her mum in Wroxham, forced to have sexual relations underage.
Hannah eventually managed to escape the relationship to live with her dad, but due to his alcohol addiction was kicked out of the family home 3 years later and made homeless at only 16-years-old.
At the time, Hannah could only afford to stay at a two-star hotel on Earlham Road, Norwich. After notifying a social worker of her situation, Hannah was referred to YMCA Norfolk for a housing assessment. The day she was assessed at YMCA Norfolk’s Central Youth Hostel (John Drake House), in March 2021, she moved into the property.
Hannah said: “when I first moved into YMCA I felt really anxious, nervous and overwhelmed. Due to the trauma that I suffered throughout my childhood, I turned to drugs, drinking and partying.
Hannah spent the next few months engaging in positive activities such as gardening and cooking, and also learnt new skills through taking part in ‘Life Ready’ workshops (a training and education project ran by YMCA Norfolk).
“The support that Central gave me and the patience they showed me made me realise that there was more to life than what I had been through. When I moved into My Place, I was really excited and happy. I felt that I had grown up, and despite initial nerves, I have really flourished since living here,” Hannah added.
Hannah said her housing engagement worker, Justin, made her ‘feel at ease’ and ‘earnt her respect.’
“There have been times when it has all been too much for me: I have broken down and thought I could not get through it at all. But I learnt to confide in the staff at YMCA, who would lighten my mood through the challenging times. I now speak to my engagement worker daily about the case – to let out my frustrations instead of letting it all build up.
“With everything that has gone on in my life, I have learnt that stability is possible. Thanks to YMCA Norfolk, this is the first time in a long time that I have felt safe. They have made it possible for me to change my life around – I now have a different outlook, with better self-esteem and self-worth. I know that people care about me, and I can speak to YMCA staff without judgement,” Hannah added.
Hannah is one of hundreds of young people who would be living in an unsafe, vulnerable situation if it wasn’t for YMCA Norfolk’s intervention and support.
The charity is aiming to raise up £10,000 from this year’s Sleep Easy, and funds will go towards transforming the lives of homeless and vulnerable young people across Norfolk, such as Hannah.
Young people living at YMCA’s accommodation units are not only provided with a safe space to stay but also encouraged to engage in positive activities as well as counselling services, training, education, and skills-based support to move onto independent living when they’re ready to do so.
John Lee, YMCA Norfolk CEO (who is taking part in Sleep Easy 2023), commented on the fundraising event:
“Sleep Easy is not only essential for raising much needed funds, but it also highlights the reality of youth homelessness and why no one should ever have to experience it.
“We’re extremely grateful to all of our supporters, fundraisers and sponsors who have pledged to take part in Sleep Easy 2023 – community support is vital to all charitable operations, and we’re hoping to raise as much money this year as possible given the current climate.”
To register and/or donate to YMCA Norfolk’s Sleep Easy event this year, please click here.