Duo rough it for the street kids

Steven Boucher and Heather Bittle, volunteers from Lisburn who took part in the Challenge 48 Sleep Out.
Steven Boucher and Heather Bittle, volunteers from Lisburn who took part in the Challenge 48 Sleep Out.

Two Lisburn volunteers bore the cold winter and slept rough on the streets of Bangor at the weekend to raise money for street children in Uganda.

Steven Boucher and Heather Bittle were among around 40 volunteers who took part in the Challenge 48 Sleep Out which took place between Friday December 12 and Sunday 14.

The aim of the challenge is to raise enough money to help rescue around five children in Uganda in time for their Christmas dinner.

Volunteers slept rough at the McKee Clock Sunken Gardens and, like the children in Africa, the volunteers slept in cardboard boxes. They were not allowed to go into the homes of people they knew, or to bring food, or any money. They were allowed to be fed through donations from people or local shops.

Steven said, “Can you imagine what it would be like to be living and sleeping on the streets in just a t-shirt? Without a sleeping bag? Or any kind of cover? That’s what kids in Africa have to do every night, not just for one weekend. No one should have to live like that.

“Through Challenge 48 we are hoping to raise funds for Abaana to enable them to rescue children who, are living rough on the streets of Kampala, in Uganda.”

Every year in the UK £594m is spent on unwanted Christmas gifts (1 in 10 gifts), and this Christmas there are also 1 billion children living in extreme poverty.

Since 1998, Bangor-based charity Abaana has been trying to improve the lives of some of these children in Africa.Bangor Mayor Peter Martin, who also took part said: “It’s a small sacrifice to sleep rough to support the great work which Abaana does and also to highlight the issue of Homelessness in Northern Ireland.

“Their work changes the lives of many who are indeed less fortunate than us and whilst we will only be facing this prospect for a weekend some face this challenge ever night.”

The idea was inspired by a trip to Uganda, when Bangor man Scott Baxter met street children on the streets of Kampala, Uganda. He spent a night sleeping on the streets with them to experience what it was like. In the morning he collected plastic bottles and scrap metal with the kids, and sold it for cash to buy breakfast.

The charity has built 12 schools in Uganda educating around 4,000 children. For more information log onto Abaana’s website www.abaana.org/c48