Written by World Link YES student Layan Albraik '19 (Saudi Arabia/IA)
Many people are ignorant about what is happening to others around the world, or even in their own community. It is estimated over 2.5 million children are homeless just in the U.S. They live with nothing but their dreams and ambitions.
Many people have never tried to put themselves in their shoes or get a little taste of what it is like to live
Let me tell you the story of Reggie Kelsey and the annual Reggie’s Sleepout event. Reggie
There are many scenarios in which a youth might experience homelessness, such as staying in weekly or daily motels, living doubled up with another family, or residing with friends and sleeping on the couch.
There are also many reasons for youths to become homeless; it could be aging out of foster care (Reggie Kelsey as an example), abuse, or being kicked out of their homes.
Reggie’s Sleepout was created in memory of Reggie Kelsey, and to prevent other similar tragedies.
When I first came here to Iowa as an exchange student, I was told that I’ll have different experiences and opportunities.
At our Student Arrival Orientation, our coordinators handed us a list of opportunities for us to volunteer during the year. One of those opportunities was Reggie’s Sleepout. Our coordinators set our goal – we each needed to raise at least $100.
On the 6th of October, some exchange students and I went for a tour of Youth Opportunity Center. We got to see everything the center provides to homeless youth to help them get back on their feet. We watched a video featuring the stories of homeless youth in the area. I felt bad and upset. People who are experiencing homelessness, sleep outside all year round. This tour inspired me. It made me want to make a change in their lives, to help them live a successful life full of comfort, love, and many achievements. Homeless youth have a lot of
After the tour, I began thinking of many creative ways I could fundraise. I came to find, fundraising is not as easy as I thought. I learned there you should always have a Plan A and a Plan B.
My plan A was to put two boxes in two different places to collect the required amount. I made calls to inquire about the possibility of putting one of the boxes in the library and the other in a grocery store. I waited for about one to two weeks to have the approval, but it never came.
So I put plan B into action. My idea was to sew and sell mittens as my host mom told me she used to do it a long time ago. I thought it was a brilliant idea to help me reach my fundraising goal. With the help of my host mom, we started sewing, shaving so they look new, and selling with only two days to go before the big event. And guess what? I was able to reach my goal! I was so excited that I was able to raise $100 in just two days, I couldn’t sleep that night!
Day of the Event
On the 27th of October, the main Reggie’s Sleepout event took place at Drake University Stadium. Campers were given the chance to sleep under the stars.
Each team came up with a cardboard box design in which they would sleep under for the main event. Our design idea was a pyramidal structure representing the sense of harmony and unity within ourselves and with the environment to which we aspire.
I had a lot of fun watching the campers participating in Reggie’s Got Talent. World Link exchange students participated in presenting their talents, where some of them were presenting their national dances. I was proud of them being a part of the World Link family.
At the end of the night, the judges announced the winners for different aspects of the event.
What I Learned
Reggie’s Sleepout was a lot of fun, but the best part of the experience for me was spending the night under our cardboard box structure. I lied down on the floor thinking and contemplating the stars. Maybe just meditating the stars, but thinking about what is tomorrow has in store for us. Many questions flew through my mind that night.
This experience made me realize homeless youth cling to their hopes and aspirations each day to keep going. They are ambitious. They are inspirational. They are the leaders of today and tomorrow.
“We may have all come aboard different ships, but we are on the same boat now.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Read more about the Reggie’s 2018 Sleepout Event in our previous blog post.