While conditions for this year’s Vinnies CEO Sleepout were “bitterly cold”, St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn CEO Barnie van Wyk said the support from the community “warmed” his heart.
As at Monday 24 June 2.30pm, $776,578 had been raised, which Mr van Wyk said is the highest per capita in Australia. The total, a record for Canberra, also exceeds the organisation’s $700,000 target, with Managing Director of Canberra Airport Stephen Byron the highest fundraiser.
Mr Byron, who participated in his first CEO Sleepout, had raised $72,830, far exceeding his $40,000 target and is the highest ever individual fundraiser in Canberra.
Mr van Wyk believes the reason the event is so well supported in Canberra is “that our understanding of the issues is much better” and “because we are a close-knit community, people are more inclined to participate”.
Funds raised from this year’s event will be directed to a number of areas including: fitting out a Night Patrol van to be able to provide hot food to people; expansion of the migrant and refugee program for schools; providing additional crisis accommodation; and looking at introducing a program to tackle rental affordability.
This year’s event was held at the Canberra Airport Hangar on Thursday 20 June with 181 CEOs registered – a record number as the event celebrated its 10th year.
At the event, participants engaged in an interactive activity to ‘Walk a Mile in Their Shoes’, whereby they received a character card reflecting a persona of a Vinnies companion, and needed to negotiate a path through various services to receive assistance.
This role play allowed CEOs to better understand the multiple factors contributing to homelessness, and the complexities associated with breaking the cycle of poverty.
For Mr van Wyk, this year marked his third Sleepout event and he said it was the toughest yet.
“I slept out on the apron and was awake most of the night,” he said.
The mercury dropped to -4.9oC overnight, although Mr van Wyk said the wind chill factor was about -7.8oC.
Donations are being accepted until the end of July via www.ceosleepout.org.au