A Digital Sleep Out with a Twist. This is how housing coach Fransiska Nikollaj of Linc to Care describes the fundraiser she organized with "her young people" for Sheltersuit.  Fransiska:

"As a housing coach in Den Bosch, I supervise young people between the ages of 18 and 25. Everyone has their own story, we offer appropriate guidance that matches the young people's need for help. As Linc to Care we try to connect to their unique stories, to connect in an equal way. With positive energy, we build a new path together. It's a wonderful job! That's why I never say I have to go to work. Rather, coaching is part of my life.

In consultation with my young people, I decided to organize a Sleep Out. To raise money for vulnerable homeless people and refugees. Like the youth, they too have their own story. Our plan was to sleep under the stars as a group, for example somewhere in nature, to raise money. We were just working out the idea when corona threw a spanner in the works. Time for top deliberation in the group! What do we do now?"

Snoring on the balcony, pitting in the garden

"During our group discussion, it was emphasized that Sheltersuits are desperately needed especially in this time of crisis. That comment immediately stoked the fire. Our event had to and would continue. The clue to the story? We decided to simply make it a Digital Sleep Out with the theme: "sleeping outside with a twist.
Snoring on your balcony, pitting in your garden, slumbering in a tent. It all didn't matter. As long as you spent a night for charity and connected online. Remotely because of corona!

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Digital Sleep Out: dozing off with your mobile

On LinkedIn and Instagram, we promoted our event and on the night of May 8-9, more than 20 people participated. Online, we shared photos, experiences and stories. One of the young people even asked if he could sleep outside for another night, that's how motivated he was. Together with my three kids, I spent the night in our backyard."

Young people feel for homeless people

"What is very important. You have to get the young people involved and not tell them what to do. Try to prod them into a cause that they have a feeling for, otherwise you won't get a project like this off the ground. Homelessness is an issue among young people. In 2018, there were 39,300 homeless people in the Netherlands alone, 12,600 of whom were between the ages of 18 and 30. We are therefore proud to have raised 655 euros. Good for two Sheltersuits!"

A warm place for her child is what every mother wants

"Social causes I have always loved to follow and that is how Sheltersuit appeared on my radar. Especially the distribution of the children's suits on Lesbos struck a nerve. A warm and sheltered place for your child to sleep. Surely that is the least a mother wants. What a relatively simple solution like a Sheltersuit can do. Wonderful!

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Digital Sleep Out: dozing off with your mobile

What further inspires me is the story of the founder. In my opinion, Bas could have gone for commercial success with his own fashion line, but he chose a different path. That speaks to the imagination."

Confrontation with one's own prejudices

"Before I joined Linc to Care, I myself worked for a while at the homeless shelter in Den Bosch. There I was confronted with my own prejudices. These disappeared like snow in the sun when I started talking to homeless people.

Behind all my projections, there turned out to be a human being! Of flesh and blood, just like myself. Sometimes people end up in difficult situations because of their own choices or external circumstances. Believe me! Becoming homeless can happen to anyone, I've learned. A person really is more than a sum of decisions and behavior."

We are conditioned to make snap judgments. You see a homeless person and immediately think "Thank goodness I don't live like that. The consequence of all this labeling? It makes it easier to close your eyes to all the suffering.

During my career, I learned to listen carefully to people. Only when you get to know someone's story do you gain empathy, does sympathy surface. Then the realization naturally follows: 'We're not that different.'"

Every person has a story

"The youth I counsel, like every person, all have their own strengths and talents, pitfalls and problems. As a care provider, we try to connect with each person's unique story. Twice a week we cook together. During the meal we talk about everyday things and about what is going on with them, we do not avoid a subject. Everything can and may be discussed.

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We also have a game night, watch movies, go for a walk and clean together. Fellow sports coaches take the young people to box or to have a nice workout in a park or in the gym. We provide appropriate guidance on the way to independent living.

Thus, we work on establishing healthy social contacts, work and daytime activities. The young people work on these areas of life from their own strengths and talents. Because one thing my young people hate to hear. That they are limited, or that there is something wrong with them. They really don't like that. And right they are! Homeless, refugee, young person, coach ... if we dare to look at each other's similarities instead of staring at differences, connecting as human beings is 'a piece of cake.'" 


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