About 80 young people braved a cool autumn night for a taste of homelessness and in the process raised $96,000 for those who sleep rough on Sydney streets.
The fundraiser sleepout run on 12 April at the St Nemetallah Maronite Catholic Church in Appin was such a success that it is hoped it will become a feature each Lent said Maronites on Mission director Charbel Azzi.
Around 1000 people sponsored the young adults who swapped their warm beds for a simple meal and a layer of cardboard and a tent, or a night out in the open.
Tents were later donated to some of the group’s clients, who experience homelessness or food shortage.
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In Sydney, around 900 people each night either sleep rough or in crisis or temporary accommodation according to the City of Sydney.
The Maronite volunteer group is run by young adults and feeds hundreds of people each week around the city. It also runs two international missions each year, including a medical assistance mission to the Philippines.
“We were very surprised at the support we received, we were hoping to get maybe 25 or 30 young people to sleep out,” said Mr Azzi.
“Maronites on Mission has only being operating for six years, and it shows the good will of people towards us and the reputation we have built up as a good and hard-working charity.”
The evening began with the praying of the Vespers and Stations of the Cross led by Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay and other members of clergy while Eucharistic Adoration was made available until midnight.
“St Maroun, our spiritual father, lived in the open air, with no roof, house or shelter, detaching himself from all earthly things, so that his eyes remained fixed towards heaven with no barrier to stop him from living his faith, meditating the glory of God, and praising His wonders,” the bishop told the young people.
“I can see that you are here tonight with the same spirit, to meditate the glory of God in the open air, and to think of your brothers and sisters in need.
“May the sacrifice you are doing this evening help you grow in your faith in the Lord and your love to your neighbour, especially the poorest of the poor. I commend you on this initiative and all the work you do as volunteers.”
Mr Azzi said that faith and spirituality “is a big part of what we do”.