YMCA Sleep Easy Challenge 2013

One of the most basic human rights is to have somewhere safe and stable to live, yet homelessness continues to be one of the worst social problems in Britain today.

On a personal level, I’ve only had to sleep rough (not by choice) on one occasion. Back in 2002, I was working at a summer camp in New York State. During a night out in Lake George, and on impulse, myself and two colleagues decided to skip our curfew and stay out and party. We assumed we would be able to rent a motel room for the night, but unfortunately we were mistaken. We walked to every hotel and motel we were aware of in the whole town, but nowhere could we find a bed for the night. We got so desperate that, in tears, I begged one hotel manager to let us pay him to sleep on his office floor. I think he almost gave in, but unfortunately said he couldn’t let us stay at his establishment. With no other choice, we slept on the side of the road. Unfortunately, we made a rookie mistake. We chose to wait out the night on a road running alongside a park. It was only when the sun came up the next morning that we realised the whole area was covered in dew and we were soaked. I was lucky, though. I had enough money in my pocket to go and buy some breakfast whilst we waited for our bus, and once we returned to camp I was able to have a hot shower and sleep in a warm bed.

My experience in America is what inspired me to take part in the Cardiff YMCA Sleep Easy Challenge 2013 on Friday night. Over 100 of us slept rough in a city centre car park to raise awareness of homelessness in Wales and to raise much needed money to fund an emergency room at the YMCA hostel.

I was so determined to take part in the Sleep Easy Challenge this year that I would have gone along on my own, but I’m very pleased to say that my good friend Geri volunteered to come with me. We arrived just after 8pm, and joined in the scramble for cardboard to make our beds. This is only the second year that the event has taken place in Cardiff, and the organisers weren’t expecting so many people to turn up. Two of the car park staff were up and down in the lift for over an hour, trying to bring up as much cardboard as possible with one bin between them.

There was a really great atmosphere in the car park, a sense of community as everyone came together to support each other through the night. At around 10pm, the good old Welsh weather demonstrated what it is known for as the wind started to pick up and howled through the car park. Geri and I tried to make our area as comfortable as we could.

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Thirty minutes after this photo was taken, the rain started to pour. It came in horizontally through the wire mesh that you can see behind me, and dripped from the ceiling. Our sleeping bags got wet, and the cardboard that we’d put up behind us in an attempt to protect us from the weather turned into a soggy pile of pulp. I found the driest spot I could, buried myself in my sleeping bag and willed myself to fall asleep. Surprisingly, I did manage to sleep for a few hours. Again, though, I’m one of the lucky ones. At 5am I was able to drive home, put my damp sleeping bag in the washing machine, have a hot shower and get into my warm bed. I can’t imagine having to sleep in that sleeping bag in a wet car park the next night, and the next night, and the next night…

I’m proud to say that I raised £145 for YMCA. I also had the added bonus of sharing a great experience with a bunch of fantastic people. The hope is that the Sleep Easy Challenge will get bigger and bigger every year. How great would it be if they could one day fill the whole car park with fundraisers?

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

This post is part of the Weekly Photo Challenge. Please click here to see more entries.

I am thankful for being an aunty.

I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be an aunty at an early age. My only brother was always adamant that he didn’t want children, and the church will not allow me to be an official godmother because my parents chose to not have me traditionally baptised. I am really lucky to have grown up with an aunty who has loved me unconditionally and supported me from the day I was born. I was gutted that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience the same role.

Twenty years on, and how things have changed. My brother took a u-turn on the reproducing front four years ago (to the day – it’s my nephew’s birthday today) and he and his wife now have three beautiful children. And although the church will still not allow me to be part of the actual ceremony, a few of my friends have asked me to take on the role of godmother in their children’s lives. There are now ten children who call me Aunty Sas, and I’m sure there will be more in the future.

My nephew’s flower garden

I’m thankful for helping them to learn new things.

My nephew holding a ladybug

I’m thankful for making new discoveries with them.

My godson’s Halloween pumpkin
My nephew made this artwork from a postcard of the Leaning Tower of Pisa that I sent him

I’m thankful that, like me, they love to explore their creative side.

My godson’s first time ice-skating

I’m thankful that they let me enjoy new experiences with them.

My goddaughter trying to drown out the noise of a fire engine
My godson disguised as a chipmunk

I’m thankful when they make me laugh.

My godson on a camping trip to Whitesands

And I’m thankful for all the great adventures I have with them.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates it! Thank you for allowing us all to be part of your celebration. I would like to dedicate this post to my Aunty Jackie, the best role model I could have wished for in how to be a great aunty.

Shop Windows – HHH Challenge

Hitch-Hikers’ Handbook’s photo challenge has provided a fun diversion for me tonight – Interesting shop windows from around the world. Below is my contribution, click here to see more.

Ithaca Shop Front

I took this photo of a shop front on the Greek island of Ithaca. Initially, it was the bright colours that attracted me to this shot. As with everything in Ithaca, it was painted in bright tones that matched the natural hues of the island. When I looked closer, though, I was intrigued by the contents in the window. They reminded me of jars that my science teacher used to keep in a cupboard in the school lab. I certainly didn’t want to try eating them!

Special Photo Challenge: Inspiration

People are always telling me what I can’t do. Like when I was told (by lots of friends, family and virtual strangers) that I couldn’t spend my 30th birthday travelling in the USA on my own. This photo of me stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon proves that not only could I do it, but I did and I had an amazing time.

My inspiration in writing this blog is that I get to tell people to ignore the naysayers. Aim to achieve your dreams.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

This week’s photo challenge threw me for a minute. We’re well into autumn/winter here in Wales, and there’s not much greenery around. When I started to look around me, though, I found lots of things that are green. Estate agents’ signs, a crane, cars, shop fronts, doors, even the outdoor gym in the park is painted green. I’d never realised that we use the colour green so much in Wales. And then I realised. Of course, green is one of the national colours here!

Green is one of the three colours of the Welsh flag
Green also features heavily on St David’s day – daffodil stems, leeks – more green!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

The word renewal conjures up many images. The rebirth of flowers in spring, snakes shedding their skin, the regeneration of a town centre, renewing your library books to avoid a fine (which I have a terrible habit of forgetting), the list goes on.

For this week’s photo challenge, I’ve decided to document my personal renewal. Four years ago, I consciously made a lot of big changes in my life. At 28 years old, after six years working abroad, I moved back to the UK.

I made a base in Cardiff, the place that has felt most like home to me out of all the places I’ve lived.

I learnt to speak Welsh.

After years of partying and abusing my body, I promised myself that I would look after myself in my thirties. This has led to me converting to a plant-based lifestyle, eating fresh, seasonal whole food …

…cooking my food from scratch…

…improving my fitness levels…

…and taking up lots of new sports.

To celebrate my 30th birthday I took a trip of a lifetime to the USA and visited the Grand Canyon, a long-held ambition of mine.

I’ve continued to travel and experience as many adventures as possible.

My renewal is still taking place. Maybe it will never end. I hope not, because I’m loving life and I’m happier than ever.