BLOG: Friday Night With A Difference! Sam’s Story (Part I)

We’re not all about serious regulation and financial stuff at Unicorn y’know. Our staff are proper good’uns not only shown by our customer services recognition but what they do in their spare time too, like Samantha Wood (QA Assistant), and Xiomara Medina Saavedra’s (E-learning Project Manager)’s latest charity exploits…

Big Issue HatThe Challenge

I’m not the most spontaneous person nor the fittest, yet at the start of March, whilst browsing through Facebook, I stopped at an ad for a charity event for The Big Issue Foundation called ‘The Big London Night Walk’, described as ‘different kind of Friday night out in London’.

It consisted of walking 13 miles through London in the middle of night with four rest stops en route. Before I could come to my senses, I signed up, set up my fundraising page and told my everyone. There was no backing out!

Not only did I have to somehow prepare myself for walking such a distance in only a couple of weeks but I had to raise at least £200 for the charity too, but I was full of enthusiasm and determination and that’s all I needed right?! I told everyone, “13 miles? It’ll be fine” whilst smiling with a calmness that belied the nerves jangling inside my belly!

Prior to the event, not only had I received a lot of kind and generous donations, words of encouragement and advice – don’t go empty-handed – plenty of water, an iPod and very comfy shoes were essential – but I’d somehow managed to trick/encourage Xiomara, to join me.

So, with virtually no training and no strategy under our belts, just a specially-made t-shirt, the walk finally arrived…

Sam's T-shirt designGetting there

We agreed to meet at the train station to begin our adventure, but unfortunately had forgotten to exchange numbers and I got an early taste of my (lack of) endurance as I heard the train pull in whilst cursing the ticket machine to hurry up with my tickets!

Dashing over the bridge and hoping to see Xiomara at our meeting spot, I was spun into a panic whilst I spent precious seconds debating whether to wait for my colleague and risk missing the train, or to hop on the train and miss my colleague. After a few moments of feeling like the proverbial rabbit in some car headlights, I leapt onto the train before it pulled away…

Xiomara and I found each other, where I was told she had been waving from the train to catch my attention! Hmmm, this wasn’t a good start! Still, we had each other for company and chatted then caught some sleep before reaching the point of no return.

Arrival and Start Line

Arriving at the venue, we noticed what a buzz there was; people enthusiastically chatting to each other about where they were from, whether it was their first time doing the walk, and discussing the very important and often overlooked issue of homelessness. Issued with our maps and Big Issue raincoats, we were eager to get going.

London City Voices choirAs we waited for the 10pm start, we were treated to heavenly singing by the London City Voices choir, who have performed with Damien Rice at the London Palladium and been on TV several times.

We also heard some very passionate speakers talk of their experiences, including CJ de Mooi from BBC Eggheads who captivated me and others when he dared to declare that politicians don’t care, society doesn’t care. Homeless people have no identity, no address and are invisible.

Finally, we had the famous duo, James Bowen and his cat named Bob – made famous when James wrote about his experiences in the bestselling book, ‘A Streetcat Named Bob’ –  speak to us and explain that a majority of homeless people in London spend their days sleeping as they have to keep moving throughout the night as the only way to stay safe.

We would experience London as they do.

I feel confident saying everyone was both humbled and excited as about 300 of us gathered together to take our first steps.

Sights Along The Way 2Everyone was striding forward with energy and excitement, which had an early boost as we saw the Millennium Eye lit up in bright red especially for us, with many people stopping to take a photo of such an eye-catching sight. We walked past other London landmarks including the MI6 building as seen in the Bond movie, Skyfall, Big Ben, and St Paul’s Cathedral.

The sights were fantastic and the route was cleverly mapped out – seeing popular sights and spotting well-dressed people leaving theatres and top-notch restaurants, then turning a corner and seeing the pavement strewn with dirty duvets and noticing desperate people wandering around with nothing but hopelessness in their eyes.

To say it was an eye-opener is an understatement….

Part II – “I found it very shocking to see how homeless people walk during the night with no particular destination in mind” – read the final instalment of Sam and Xiomara’s Big London Night Walk tomorrow.

What else do our Unicorn fundraisers get up to? Find out here…

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