For the fourth consecutive year, bachelor of commerce students from Dalhousie University took part in 5 Days 4 the Homeless (5D4H), a national fundraising and awareness campaign focused on youth at risk.
The campaign was founded at the University of Alberta in 2005. This year, 22 universities took part, however Dal is still the only school east of Montreal that participates.
From Sunday to Friday, the four participating students had to remain on campus, outside the Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building, and were only allowed inside to attend their classes or to use public washrooms when buildings were open. The only food or drink they had access to was through donations.
All funds raised by the students went to Phoenix, a Halifax non-profit that offers services and support for at-risk and homeless youth.
Katie Flanagan has taken part in the campaign all four years.
“It’s kind of unique in the sense that when we started out, most people had no idea what we were doing,” she said. “Definitely, over the years, there’s been an increase in awareness and an increase in the money that’s donated.”
‘Sticking to what the campaign is about’
Breanna Buhler, Kenny Johnston and Max Georgopoulos were all first-time participants this year. For Buhler, the biggest challenge was staying true to the campaign’s purpose, especially when a storm hit the municipality on Tuesday.
“It’s really about sticking to what the campaign is about when we’re faced with those challenges,” she said. “People are telling us to go inside, and we get that you’re worried about us, but we want to stick as true to the campaign and its purposes as (much as) possible.”
In terms of preparation, all four participants agreed that their trip to one of the Phoenix youth centres, leading up to the campaign, was beneficial. They were able to talk to one person who was benefiting from the program, which Georgopoulos found “really put things into perspective.”
Flanagan noted that the education factor is a huge component during the lead-up.
“It’s hard to be out here and talk to people, without knowing why exactly you are out here, and even then, who are you supporting and what do they offer to other people,” she said.
Reactions from the public
For Johnston, the biggest surprise from the week was the support from passersby.
“(It’s been) everyone who’s kind of walked by has been like, ‘do you need anything?’” he said. “The amount of donations that we’ve been getting every day is just astounding, and the amount of curiosity that people have.”
The most memorable part of the week occurred on Thursday, when Buhler had someone come up to her to share their personal story of being homeless.
“To hear that story touched my heart for sure, and made everything completely worth it,” she said.
Michelle Ledrew stopped by on Thursday to donate to the campaign, and also asked the foursome questions about their experience. She said this is something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.
“It’s a good way for people to actually experience it (homelessness),” she said.
As of Friday at 11 a.m., Flanagan and her team had raised $11,790 for Phoenix — eclipsing their goal of $10,000. Donations can still be made online until March 31, by clicking the link here.