Bringing Dignity To The Streets – Paying it Forward With Heart
Over the Christmas Period I read many inspiring stories where people had come together to Pay-it-Forward to those in need. All of them touched me deeply – but one stood out . I contacted Mikkel and asked him if he would be willing to share the story with If Everyone Cares – This is What he shared :)
Bringing Dignity To The Streets
Did you ever consider what it must be like to be completely exposed and yet invisible. I think that is how a lot of homeless people feel. Two of our most important needs are feeling protected and feeling worthwhile, both lack in the life of a homeless person.
My business partner Yaqub and I have an ongoing love affair with the homeless. Yaqub spent part of his teenage years without a place to call home, weekly he rounds up and feeds the homeless on the way to his office and at this time last year I was trying to save the life of a homeless refugee (we made it!). We had discussed creating a Christmas event for the homeless but it never got further than that…but the thought kept coming back to me.
With less than a week to Christmas I finally acted on the thought. Our company Dignity Entertainment would make a donation and then we asked our Facebook community to send us messages of hope. The idea was to buy clothing vouchers with the donation and include the messages with the vouchers in envelopes. Then take to the streets in Central London on the 22 Dec to hand out envelopes and talk to the homeless.
I posted this message to my friends on Facebook late Monday evening: “On Saturday I will take to the streets to do some Christmas goodness. I will buy clothing vouchers to hand out to homeless people together with a Christmas message. If you feel like contributing £10 to a voucher and a personal message to a homeless soul then send me a FB message. And if you are up for joining me for a couple of hours walking the streets of Central London to hand out the envelopes to the homeless then let me know. I’ll set off early evening on Saturday 22nd Dec.”
I was hoping for a few people to chip in but before I knew it this snowball was gaining momentum. By Friday (3 days later) I was £60 short of having raised £1000 in donations and messages to the homeless had come in from near and far. In the hope of getting past the £1000 mark I posted one last message regarding the event. To say it worked is an understatement another £560 was donated on that day taking us to £1500.
Thursday late night I contacted the sandwich chain Pret A Manger via Facebook to ask for support. Pret is very active in improving the circumstances for the homeless. Early Friday morning I had a response that they would donate 80 Love Bars (food bars) to support the event. Describing the speed and way they dealt with my enquiry as impressive doesn’t cover that was one smooth operation.
What made it all come together so quickly was the simplicity of it all. Below are the 5 simple steps that I took:
- Call to action post on Facebook and followed by daily update on donations raised
- Donors sent me an email and received a link to pay directly to my Paypal account
- Post to Dignity Entertainment and I.N.S.P.I.R.E.D. Facebook communities to obtain messages of hope
- Email to a few homelessness organisations to get advice on best place to buy vouchers
- Facebook message to sandwich chain Pret A Manger to obtain sponsorship support
By Saturday 5pm I was ready to hit the streets with 50 envelopes and the surplus Love Bars. Each envelope held a £30 gift card to general merchandise chain Argos, a Love Bar and 23 uplifting messages to boost the spirits in the dark night. To credit each donor and to make the gift more personal each envelope was dedicated to one or more donors.
At 6pm Yaqub, myself and 6 friends armed with envelopes set off from homeless hot spot Charing Cross station. We got a taste of what homeless people have to face as the rain was hammering down. In fact the weather was so bad there was hardly was a homeless person in sight for the first 2 hours. After 6 hours of looking in back alleys, tunnels and doorways we were on our last envelope.
The gratitude and smiles we received from the tapestry of homeless we encountered were absolutely second to none. Many of them shared the stories of how they came to this hardship. I think for both these homeless souls and the group Christmas had come early as connecting was such a powerful experience.
Back to that last envelope…it was given to a person who desperately needed even a glimmer of light in night. This is his story;
This young man’s path to the street started with his wife’s death. He was left with a boy and two twin girls…his life fell to pieces…and he climbed up the drain pipe onto the roof and jumped from the chimney. 6 days later he woke up in hospital in a full body caste with tubes coming out everywhere. His little boy told this young father to never attempt to leave him again. Sadly he turned to drugs to escape from his dark reality and ended up on the streets. He told us he’d been drugs free for 8 months in the hope of getting reunited with his children…but he had just been told by the doctor he might be terminally ill…he was devastated. He got so excited when he saw the messages of hope and encouragement. He started studying them closely as we continued into the night…and after a few seconds he yelled “will you come back to see me again another day?”.
The key message in all this is that going out to make a difference doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming and you don’t need to get involved with a big organisation. Embrace the fact you have the freedom to go out and change the world any time any day. And remember your positive impact comes one person at a time so you don’t need to raise thousands to make a difference. Homeless Scottish John’s response to receiving his envelope is testament to that;
“You’ve restored my faith in humanity. God bless you”.
Written by Mikkel from Dignity Entertainment
Dignity Entertainment was created to produce films and entertainment that inspire positive social change. Our passion is people! We believe all of us have great potential and deserve a chance to realise it irrespective of colour, creed or roots.
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