Update from Gare du Nord

Last week I didn’t go to the Gare du Nord for what has become my weekly visit. I had a cough and wasn’t feeling myself, and as it’s so vital to bring positivity to that situation I decided to stay away. Tonight I knew for sure that was the right decision, as I felt recharged and was looking forward to going back. I had the last five sleeping bags from my fundraising effort to take down there, along with a bag of brownies, oranges and fruit that I picked up on the way to work this morning. As soon as I arrived the food was hoovered up in seconds! On Tuesdays the charity provides hot drinks but not hot food, so people were hungry. As it took some time for the drinks and donations to be handed out, I stood to one side with the sleeping bags. I got chatting to a man called Abdamune Sidiq [sic] from Sudan. He told me how last week the police took away his blankets, and since then he has got sick. This made me really angry, and even more glad that we created this petition last week to try and stop the police taking away people’s sleeping bags, even though I don’t know if it really made an impact.

Tonight, in addition to the normal donations there were 100 goodie bags for St. Nicholas (here in Belgium they celebrate Sinterklaas coming on 6 December – our office is full of chocolates!) from the students of ISB Service Learning/CAS. They were full of sweets, and it was so lovely seeing people patiently queuing up and then sharing the contents of their bags with others – I was given sweets by three people, they must have thought I needed fattening up! There was a happy atmosphere despite the cold, and some new faces too, although I didn’t see my friend Bakare, which has worried me a little. I hope he’s okay.

So all in all another positive experience, although it’s true that people are getting sick now that the temperatures have dropped, and even though we try to bring as many sleeping bags and warm clothes as we can, there is always a need for more. I’m worried for these men as winter progresses, what will they do and where will they go when it starts to snow? Surely they can’t sleep in the park then? All we can do is try to keep their spirits up, their tummies full and their bodies as warm as possible, and hope this is enough to get them through. I’m so happy that from January they will have more support from Unless, the wonderful new non-profit organisation which has raised money to rent a nearby building, where people will be able to have hot showers and get their clothes laundered. Hot food will also be available five times a week instead of the current twice a week arrangement, which is just fantastic. They are seeking donations to raise the monthly running fee of 5,000 Euros, so if anyone is feeling generous as Christmas approaches, I can personally guarantee this would be a brilliant and worthwhile cause.

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Plea for street children

It’s hard to sleep when the streetlight’s shining into your bedroom through a chink in the curtain, or when the temperature’s just a touch on the cold side but you can’t be bothered to get out of your nice cosy bed and crank the heating up.

Imagine, for a moment, that the streetlight isn’t shining through the curtain but directly on your face. You’re cold because you have no duvet and are instead huddled beneath thin sheets of newspaper. And your ‘bed’ is a bench or – worse than that – the hard ground. Oh – and did I mention that you’re five years old and all alone?

Around the world there are countless children who call the streets their home. The International Day for Street Children is celebrated every year on April 12th (that’s today, by the way). It provides a platform for millions of street children around the world – and their champions – to speak out so that their rights cannot be ignored.

However, the day is currently not owned by any one organisation. Which is why this year the Consortium for Street Children – the leading international network dedicated to realising the rights of street children worldwide – is calling for the United Nations to adopt and recognise the day as UN day. When the United Nations adopts a day it gives the issue greater global exposure and increases pressure on governments to act.

To show your support for street children please sign this petition or alternatively text STREET and your name to 62233 (UK only, standard network rates apply.) You can also visit the website and download pictures to put up on your social media networks for the day.

Help a street child today – because if fate had played its cards differently it could just as easily have been you.

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