Lentils and hard graft to help Zimbabwe’s slum dwellers

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A GROUP of young people from St Andrew’s Church Youth Group swapped their pyjamas and iPods for lentils and hard graft last weekend to experience what life is like for the billion people around the world living in slums.

And while the simulation was a far cry from the real slums of South Africa and Zimbabwe, at the four-day event at St Andrew’s Church the young people learned to appreciate how lucky they were and raise money for charity at the same time.

As part of the experience the 14 young people washed cars to raise money for the charity Soul Action, which came up with the Slum Survivor scheme and which raises money to support emergency feeding programmes for children orphaned by Aids in countries such as Zimbabwe.

And while they don’t yet know how much they have raised, raising money for charity was the easy part, according to organiser and participant 20-year-old Emma Le Gallais.

‘On the Friday we had to build our own shelter from bits of old wood and anything we could find,’ she said.

‘We weren’t even sure if it would be waterproof but luckily it was as it rained on the first night. We slept in the shelter for the whole weekend and it was very cold.

‘We also had to get water from a tap up the hill, had only one set of clothes and no deodorant for the whole weekend and had to earn our money for food by doing things like the car wash. Some people didn’t earn enough for their dinner and so we had to give them some of ours.

‘It really changed our perspectives on our lives and made us realise how lucky we are. It was such an experience living for a weekend as a billion people spend a lifetime.’

And according to Emma, it wasn’t TV that everyone missed the most, but their pyjamas.

‘It was hard not being able to change your clothes and not having pyjamas,’ she said.

‘We didn’t miss TV and things like that, but I did miss deodorant and changes of clothes. But it was definitely worth it in the end and the money we raised will go towards the people really suffering in places like South Africa and Zimbabwe.’

As well as Ransoms and Pentagon, who donated wood for the shelters, the group would also like to thank Checkers, who donated money towards the cost of the food for the weekend.

• Picture: The youth group washed cars to raise cash. Picture by David Ferguson (00666213)

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