The annual Belvedere College Sleep Out, which took place virtually from 22 to 24 December 2020, raised over €125,000 for homeless charities Focus Ireland, Peter McVerry Trust and Home Again. A total of over €186,000 was raised through the Jesuit school’s various fundraising events during Advent, Christmas and the New Year. It was in line with the mission as a Christian faith community ‘rooted in a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ’ and an education that encourages ‘men for others’.
A large number of sports stars and celebrities gave a boost of support to the Belvo boys on social media. These included Paul O’Connell, Hozier, Cian Healy, Sam Bennet, Johnny Sexton, Jason Donovan, David Byrne, and many more.
Members of the Sleep Out 2020 team reported:
“This year above all years was the most challenging of the 37 years that the Sleep Out has happened. Even up to two days before it was due to start it was touch and go as to how we could safely and responsibly run the event.
In the end it became a combination of a physical sleep out at students’ homes rather than at the GPO, and all our fundraising went online instead of shaking buckets on the streets.
But as important as raising money is for these charities, it is equally (if not more) important that our students get to ‘walk in the shoes’ of what it might feel like to be homeless and to deeply reflect on that experience. This is also at the heart of what it means to be in a Jesuit school. Many students did a 24 hour fast to deepen their experience.”
Below are a few comments of students who slept out in their gardens:
“From doing the soup run I’ve always felt I have a rough understanding of what it would be like to be homeless, but I was very wrong. Just from sleeping out in my back garden and waking up and being frozen I realised that homeless people do this every day of the year and I realised how privileged I am.”
“I have learned a newfound respect for homeless people as the sleep outside was horrible. I was afraid of noise and couldn’t sleep and they would be worse in town. The fast was hard as well and that was only one day… It has made me a lot more grateful for what I have, and it really pointed out the mental strength homeless people have to do that every day and carry on with life.”
“I sometimes find myself thinking that I can understand the struggle of those who aren’t as lucky as I am, and this experience has erased that idea from my mind. I will continue to educate myself as much as I can and to do what I can to use my position of privilege in a positive way to help those who are less fortunate that I am.”
The school pastoral department expressed their thanks to all the students who took part in Sleep Out 2020. A huge debt of gratitude also went to the board and staff for their support, especially Mr Liam Hennelly and Mr Stephen Carey who have led the Sleep Out for the last 15 years.
Past pupils, who normally join the students each year, also participated in the ‘virtual sleep out’. In particular, Brian Moss (OB ’95) and his son Isaac who attends Blackrock College and a whole family of a Fifth Year student (who asked not to be named) raised a lot of money through their Just Giving fundraising pages.
Other programmes that the Belvedere community supported were:
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. €10,548.41 was raised for the school conference from monthly collections and other donations and the Ladies Committee raised €17,090 from their Christmas raffle. Through this generosity, the SVP was able to distribute 50 food hampers and €4,000 in shopping vouchers to support families living in the inner city. Some funds to the past pupils Christmas Soup Run was also distributed to assist their work.
Kolkata Project. €1,068 was raised from a non-uniform Christmas attire day for the Hope Hospital in Kolkata and a group of Fifth Year students raised an additional €10,503 to support the Kolkata project charity partners.
Jesuit Refugee Service Gift Appeal. First Year students raised €4,924.76 for a Gift Appeal for children living in direct provision supported by school partners Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) Ireland.
Belvedere Youth Club. Transition Year students, led by Garrett Molloy and Matthew Nolan, raised almost €3,000 for Belvedere Youth Club from a virtual cycle of the Camino in lieu of the normal TY trip to the Camino in October.
Temple Street Children’s Hospital. Transition Year student Bharat Mohan raised €4,207 from the sale of Christmas trees for the children’s hospital located next to the school.
Shelton Abbey Prison. The Parents Ignatian Group donated Christmas gifts to help inmates of Shelton Abbey open prison know they were not forgotten at Christmas. The outreach was part of the parents’ continued relationship and support of the inmates, enabling them to share in the school’s collective vision of being ‘persons for others’.
Finally, the pastoral department encourages the community to stay virtually connected during the current lockdown with some Ignatian resources. These include Sacred Space (visual daily prayer), Pray As You Go (audio daily prayer) and Examen Prayer of Consciousness (reflection method to help focus on and reflect on the day).