When I first heard about the Vinnies annual sleepout it struck me that I had not really heard much about CEOs from the ICT industry participating in this event, or other charity events, although I felt they probably had, and I was simply not aware of it.
It also occurred to me that perhaps those of us working in the ICT industry, including ICT media like iTWire, should promote ICT professionals and staff in companies in the sector to take part in charity events, and to raise awareness for charities like Vinnies who are doing so much for the less fortunate in our society, including the ‘real’ homeless amongst us.
With my heightened sense of curiosity I decided to try and find out what ICT industry CEOs might have slept ‘rough’ a few nights ago in what was once the Eveleigh Rail Yards. That’s when I discovered that Stuart Dickinson, Nick Mescher and Ian Poole had, indeed, bedded down on their own personal piece of cardboard given to them by the Vinnies team.
When I tracked down Stuart Dickinson from Oxygen he was kind enough to share his very personal experience with iTWire.
“Moments of Dislodgement, that was the phrase used by a lady who had experienced homelessness. A former Vinnies client call Megan, she had borrowed the phrase from someone else, but it perfectly summed up the message about the experience of the homeless,” Stuart explained. “Many Australians experience homelessness. It begins with a moment of dislodgement and the downstream and flow on effects can be devastating.”
“Homelessness has an image. It is an image stereotyped to older men. It is not true. Over 44% of Australian's homeless today are women. A staggering number are children.
“The Vinnies CEO Sleepout was intended to raise awareness in the community and raise funds. In five years of existence 3000 CEO's have taken part, almost $13 million has been raised. Lives have been altered for the better. I saw it happen myself on Thursday night, in more ways than one.”
Stuart Dickinson explained how he had been made aware of the Vinnies CEO sleepout and was prompted to get involved himself.
“One of our Oxygen team suggested I take part in the 2012 Sleepout and after some reflection decided to give it a go. Fundraising to sleep rough seemed like an interesting proposition, and I had some concept of the cause but not true understanding. I am glad I did it. The preparedness of you all - my friends, colleagues and LinkedIn buddies - to raise over $6000 blew me away.
“During the build-up as I received a great amount of support, I also received some truly amazing notes. Some from our own Oxygen team telling me of their involvement supporting Vinnies and the work they were involved in. I was touched before I even got to Thursday night.”
On the day of the sleep-out, Stuart told me how Thursday dawned “clear and coldish,” and how it had stayed that way “despite the best efforts of some in our Sydney office to encourage the rain to come.”
“With more wet weather gear and thermals than could possibly be necessary, I arrived at Carraigeworks unsure of what to expect. Induction happened quickly and before I knew it I had a piece of cardboard positioned between Frank from Readsoft and Shane from SAP ready to go.
“After a dinner of soup and bread there were a number of stories from people who had experienced homelessness, and were currently homeless. During some moments I am sure there was not a dry eye in the room. Then it was our turn, in groups, to work out how we could help and make a commitment to that. To doing something!” Stuart said.
So, what was it like sleeping ‘rough’? As Stuart further explained, by 11.30 it was bed time. He goes on: “Outside. No roof. A wall to lean against. A cold wind. It was a fitful sleep on concrete. I had more gear to keep me warm than you can shake a stick at and I knew I was safe. I can only begin to contemplate what it must be like for real.”
“By 8am the next morning my life had resumed. I had keys in my pocket, a door to unlock, a home to go to.”
So, should corporate Australia, including the ICT industry, do more such things?, I asked Stuart, to which he replied: “Definitely. There is very little true awareness around the reality of the reasons why most charities exist and just how very desperately they need everyone’s support, not just corporate Australia. It may be great for someone one day but that can all change for anyone instantly, with something as simple as a sudden injury/illness or market downturn.”
And, what was the Oxygen CEO’s personal view of the event. Was it cold and hard work?
“When one of the team suggested I do this at first, I have to say I was a bit hesitant. However, once there, and hearing how very quickly a simple turn of events can spiral from one misfortune to another, ending in homelessness, I was suddenly very humbled to be part of such an important event.”
Finally, I also queried Stuart on what key outcomes he hoped had been achieved by him and other CEOs anticipating in the Vinnies sleep-out? “That by participating in such an important event and raising awareness through sponsorship and social media, more and more people will become regular supporters of this much needed service,” was Stuart’s response.
Hear, hear! That’s an admirable objective to be achieved by all CEOs participating in the Vinnies event, and other similar events, including the ICT participants I discovered taking part in the Sydney sleep-out – Stuart Dickinson from Oxygen, Nick Mescher of UXC Consulting and Ian Poole from UXC Connect.