Facing the cold, hard truth

At Saint Ignatius' College, Adelaide, the winter Solidarity Sleepout reflects
Ignatian values of compassion, service and a sense of social justice.

 WALKING WITH THE EXCLUDED  

By Grace Gunther, Year 12 student 

This month, 55 of us Year 12 students participated in the Solidarity Sleepout, previously known as The Cage. From noon on Thursday 6 June to noon the next day, we chose to be deprived of the various luxuries and privileges many of us believe to be a birthright: food, warmth, bedding and technology. 

Every year, we do this so that our senior cohort can gain a glimpse of the harshness of going without, by attempting to replicate the conditions of the most marginalised. However, we also conduct this initiative to raise awareness for all of us collectively, as a united student body. 

Through our chapel services and mentor sessions, we learn an understanding of what we do. However, what is the importance of doing, without knowing why we are doing it? 

The Solidarity Sleepout is a tangible display of our Ignatian values of compassion, service and sense of social justice. We talk a lot about numerous initiatives and injustice in our world, but the sleepout puts our learning into practice. Being able to visually observe other students giving their time in hopes of raising their individual and collective awareness will hopefully inspire others to do the same. 

Although the experience was uncomfortable, the spirit among the participants brought us closer. The warmth from facing the challenge together as friends is something the marginalised do not share. Often, they are isolated, face mental health challenges and are in unstable environments. 

By listening to and speaking with guests from Centacare, including Megan Welsh, Director of Domestic Violence and Youth Homelessness, volunteers Phil Crowe from Sister Janet Mead’s Adelaide Day Centre for Homeless, also known as Moore Street, we learned of the importance of walking alongside others in order to achieve better outcomes for all. Supporting the marginalised extends beyond merely providing valuable resources; it is compassion that makes the true, invaluable difference. 

Phil, an Old Ignatian teacher-turned-lawyer, a volunteer for Moore Street, spoke about serving people humbly by providing friendship for those experiencing hardship. This idea of recognising the value of treating all humans with dignity in companionship is one we can all apply to every interaction, both in our community and outside of it. 

We were also privileged to hear from solicitor and refugee advocate Bezmellah Razaee, an Old Ignatian who has assisted more than 5,000 refugees facing legal issues. He also runs the Baba Mazari Foundation that helps to educate women in Afghanistan, whereby more than 500 women have become healthcare professionals.  

Undoubtedly, the money raised during our sleepout is making an immediate difference to the difficulties that others face. However, our Ignatian toolkit goes beyond this, because we aim to know our why, and with compassion for the cause, to hopefully create lifelong awareness. Beyond the sleepout, we hope to instil the values of seeking change for injustice and actively protecting members of society against inequity. 

The privilege we receive through our Ignatian education positions us to be changemakers, to make a difference every day, not just today. As we all continue to learn, grow and serve, let’s look for these opportunities to expand our worldview.  

Photo of Solidarity Sleepout 2024 courtesy Saint Ignatius’ College, Adelaide.

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