Heather Messenger, CEO of Burnside War Memorial Hospital in Adelaide, talks about her experience in the Vinnie’s CEO Sleepout
Life is in many ways a lot about chance. People tend to get used to things, including their circumstances, but homelessness is or should be an exception.
When I was invited to participate in the 2014 Vinnie’s CEO Sleepout my inclination was to retreat to my comfort zone by making a donation and in that way I could feel that I was doing my bit. And then I reflected on the issue and asked myself, why not?
Participating provides an opportunity to give back to others who are less fortunate. I knew that I had the time, the means and the courage to do this and in the gift of giving I learned a little something about the daily struggle of our homeless, about others who support them consistently such as the Vinnie’s team, and also about myself.
Giving to someone you don’t know is a way of expressing to everyone that other lives matter. It’s a decision to value and invest in the life of others. The number of homeless people in our prosperous country and wonderful city is sobering. It can happen to anyone from any walk of life.
I found the Vinnies CEO Sleepout a very positive but salutary experience. I arrived at work the next morning feeling somewhat tired, stiff and sore. But I was also quietly satisfied that I had demonstrated social and corporate responsibility and leadership by actively participating in the Sleepout. It was a cold and difficult night despite the event being extremely well staged and managed.
I have been amazed by the kind words of encouragement and generous donations from family, friends, colleagues, business partners, anonymous donors, and most importantly the board, management and staff of the Burnside Hospital, which is a not for profit, private hospital that has its own “beginnings” in philanthropy. Our collective contribution has helped achieve a record result in SA and I would like to extend to them all, my personal thanks for getting behind this event. It’s an experience I won’t forget in a hurry.