KEMNAY Academy followed tradition again recently as staff and pupils took part in the annual Cyrenians’ Sleepout for the 13th time.
Led by Depute Rector Phil Gaiter, 46 pupils aged between 12 and 18 slept in cold and noisy conditions with only cardboard and sleeping bags to ward off the elements.
Phil Gaiter who teaches modern studies said: “I do it to teach the young people the reality on issues such as homelessness. It started with the older ones but there was such a demand from the younger ones that they were included as well and some have done it year-on-year.
He added: “I always sleep outside. You get the choice and last year it was raining but Kemnay were the only ones left outside because they wanted to do it properly.
Generally I encourage them to take a cardboard box because it’s the best insulator there is from the cold, plus a sleeping bag and lots of layers.
This year saw a change of venue to Aberdeen’s Transition Extreme at the beach front. Continuing Phil said: “This year the outside area was on grass as opposed to concrete. They put down tarpaulins for us and it was easier on the back.
“At about 1.30pm the clouds lifted and I was sleeping right under the plough.
The pupils also commented on their experiences. S4 pupil Liam Watson said: “I slept outside but I didn’t get much sleep. I was up most of the night – it was cold and it was noisy.
Ryan Fernando chose to sleep inside but didn’t sleep at all. He explained: “People were running about but I would do it again – it’s worth supporting the Cyranians.”
Idun Smith in S2 expressed gratitude at getting back to her own bed: “We went for just one night and were really tired but we got to go home to a warm bed. People living rough don’t get that option.”
Lucy Walters a veteran who has participated four times said: “It would be very quick to wear you out. It’s fun for a night but you’d soon realise how hard it is if you had nowhere to go. It makes you appreciate what you have.”
English teacher at Kemnay Primary, Morag Roberts also joined the sleepover. She said: “We read a novel with a P4 class called ‘Stone Cold’ by Robert Swindles in which a young boy becomes homeless and that helped the pupils to understand the stereotype of a homeless person is not always true.
“The book is very descriptive of the conditions and hardships of homelessness so doing the sleepout gave them first hand experience.
“It was chilly outside, noisy and difficult to relax but it was a worthwhile experience. We got creative with our shelter building. We were there for a long time and it got the pupils a focus.”
The school hopes to raise £1,000 for the Cyrenians.