Canada – Homeless for 5 days.

Article de la première édition de Crossworlds (2013-2014).

Last week, 10 students took up residence on UBC campus but not in one of the comfortable residences. With sleeping bags, visible orange T-shirts and big smiles, they lived outside, near the Irving Barber learning center. Interview of Kathy Wang, one of the volunteers.

Students volunteer for the national movement 5days. Credits - Clara Wright

Students volunteer for the national movement 5days. Crédits photo: CrossWorlds/Clara Wright

 

  • What are you doing ?

Living outside! We are volunteers for « 5days », it is a national association. For 5 days and 4 nights, volunteers live outside and collect money. Aunt Leah’s, the place we are donating to provides temporary housing, food and education for foster children. All they need to lead independent lives.

  • What is the issue with foster kids ?

When they are 19, foster kids are kicked out from their foster families. They have already experienced harsh times, going from family to family, but at 19 they are totally abandoned. The system does not help them anymore. They have nowhere to go and too many become homeless.

  • How have you heard about the 5days movement?

Last year, I saw some of the volunteers near the bookstore. I thought they were actual homeless students and asked them if they wanted to live with me! That was quite embarrassing. They explained me their struggle and I decided to join.

  • How can people join?

It is really simple. There are info sessions online, on social networks and all the information you need on the website. I applied in January and here I am!

  • Is it UBC’s initiative?

The idea comes from Alberta’s university in 2005 and now universities all around Canada participate. At UBC, the initiative comes out of Sauder and the executive team is Sauder’s CPP club, but volunteers come from any faculties – I am in Arts !

  • Do you receive a lot of donations?

It is incredible. Our goal is to collect 15 000 dollars and on the 4th day of campaign we have already collected 10 000. It will be possible to donate online after too.

  • Who gives money?

A huge mix of people. We did presentations in classes, went in to professors’ rooms. There is a professor who donated 100 dollars just out of her own pocket! People are really generous.

  • This is your first 5days’ experience, surely your first time sleeping outside. How is it going for you?

It is so rewarding. 5 days, 4 nights, ten of us. It’s become our “home”. It is not so cold and not as comfortable as home but we are pretty lucky. For volunteers in McGill, it’s harder, it’s snowing ! And students are so generous, they bring us food. Each time they do, I ask them if they could do the same things with people in the streets in Vancouver.One of my comrades actually told me something very true : “We are doing this 24hours a day, everything we do is for this. It’s not like taking an 8 hour shift at work and once back home, you’re done and forget about it.”

  • Is 5days putting pressure on government to change the laws?

We are not working on that because the organization is not big enough. It started at university and even if we hold campaigns all around the country, we can’t. But it is the role of our government to take care of its citizens. The Vancouver Sun covered a huge piece on this. One of our key goals is not only to collect money but to raise awareness. I believe that we could eventually get enough people to stand for this cause.

  • In Fostering The Truth, an enlightening article about the foster care issue, it is said there is a correlation between being a First Nations’ youth and a foster child, do you think it is true?

I believe that is true. At first, I thought you could make the difference through education, so I volunteered a lot in elementary schools and high schools. There, I worked with aboriginal kids. They did tell me about friends living on the streets.

Video from Fostering the Truth

  • In general, do you agree with the foster care program or do you think alternative methods of child care within the families should be explored ? 

I think it should be taken case by case.  We should do everything to keep families intact but when it comes to drugs, abuses and when the parents don’t want to cooperate… There are limits, for the safety and the well being of the child.

 

To know more about their movement, enjoy their website.

To know more about foster children in Vancouver, Fostering The Truth is a great piece of interactive journalism.

 

Propos recueillis par Clara.

 

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