Last week I had the privilege of sleeping rough on a cold London night. That’s a sentence you will rarely read but it sums up my experience at the Action for Children CEO Sleepout.
I took part in the event alongside 14 other chief execs as part of a drive to tackle youth homelessness and raise funds for Action for Children. While these are the overall goals for the event, for me on a personal level it was an opportunity to not only raise funds, but to meet with people who don’t have the luxury of sleeping in bed – this is their life and they face that challenge every day. It was an eye opening and humbling night.
Over the course of the night those taking part were introduced to David, a young man who has spent three years on the streets. I was bowled over by his drive and talent. To be frank, the whole night challenged the common assumptions and stereotypes we are all guilty of when thinking about the homeless population. What it really made clear to me is that anyone can find themselves in this situation – life is a lot about luck. People like David are genuinely an inspiration and I hope he will accept my invite to coming along to a Fujitsu event in the future to share his story.
Once we had met and spoken with David and others in a similar situation, it was time to bed down for the night. I knew when I was invited to attend that it would be a challenging night but as temperatures hit 1℃ I think we all started to wonder what we’d agreed to. But of course, as soon as those thoughts enter your head, you can’t help but shake it off – for us, this was one night and I was struck throughout the night by the knowledge of how lucky I, and those around me, are to have a warm bed to go back to the next night.
I was also buoyed by the knowledge that the night had already raised £150,000 for the charity. £10,000 of that came from my own fundraising and corporate donations. I was bowled over by all the donations and especially by the fact that, as thankful as I of course am for the corporate sponsorship, the vast majority of donations came from people I work alongside at Fujitsu – £10, £20 and £30 donations which, combined, saw me reach that target.
It meant a lot to me on a personal and professional level. As CEOs, we do these events to raise money, boost awareness of a cause but also to try and breed that culture within our
organisations. I want to lead from the front but I would love to see people from across Fujitsu get involved in similar events and I will be encouraging that. As a company Fujitsu does a lot for charity and we take part in many fundraising events. It’s become part of our culture and I want to make sure it stays there.
I would absolutely love to take part in the CEO Sleepout again – it was an inspiring event and one I hope exceeded Action for Children’s expectations as well as my own.
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