Dubai: To truly understand the plight of homeless youth and raise funds for the cause, students at the Canadian University of Dubai (CUD) undertook a unique project.
The five students experienced what life is like for homeless youth by sleeping on the university premises in sleeping bags. They had to "beg" for food as they were not allowed to carry money and communication devices, and access to ablution facilities was also denied.
During this time, they also appealed to the public and the university community to donate money for the cause.
Vice president of stud-ent affairs Kamal Fodil said the students aimed to raise Dh18,000 — Dh13,000 was raised over five days last week. The money will be donated to a UK charity, Homeless International.
Fodil said the students found the first day easy but by the second, they were very uncomfortable due to mosquitoes and they barely slept two hours a night.
"They had no showers, no money, no food. Basically they had to ask friends and strangers to give them food. At the same time, they had to raise money while still going to lectures," Fodil said.
Only one student had a mobile phone for emergency purposes and they were allowed computer access for study during class time.
Iranian national and CUD student Mahdi Shishegar, 20, said he had an interest in experiencing what the homeless went through.
"We each have one sleeping bag, a pillow and a blanket. It was hard with the sand, not showering for a week and sleeping on the ground, but we did it," Shishegar said.
Nigerian student Tiwa Omope, 21, said it was initially daunting not knowing where their next meal would come from, but that it got easier when people became aware of the campaign.
"I'm not more aware of homelessness. We didn't really know about the psychological and physical aspects and now it has helped my thinking about homeless people. I don't think we should give up on them."
"For the past few years, we have been active in supporting all kinds of communities and charities in the UAE. Our vis-ion is to engage with communities."
Because of the link with Canada, which has an acute homeless youth problem, CUD decided to support this cause, Fodil said.
"When I worked as a counsellor in Canada, there were teens as young as 11 who needed places to stay at all hours of the night."
"Students here in the UAE are lucky — there are no youth who are homeless. We decided to do this project to give students the feeling of how it is to be a homeless youth."