40 Mini-Camerados and a burning van

One of the best ever Camerados’ days today. Forty primary schoolchildren, juniors (KS2), came to our Blackpool Living Room this morning to find out about homelessness.

We asked them who was having an “up” day, lots of hands went up. Then who is having a “down” day? Three brave lads and one teacher (!) put up their hands. We asked these four to come forward and showed them what we do at Camerados when people have down days. We put an apron on each of them, gave them a pad & a pen and asked them to give us a hand in the café.

They took orders and delivered our posh coffee to their teachers. Ask people to join in and help you is the best solution, get people friends and purpose.

We asked them if they knew what the word written on the aprons meant? It said “Solidarity”. Not many knew that one. We explained that once we’ve asked people to help us we then ask them to show solidarity and look out for each other.

Then they sat round and listened to Colin, Skip, Jay and John talk about their lives and asked brilliant direct questions like “Why did you go to Jail?” and “What made you homeless?” which our Camerados all answered with great honesty and grace. After explaining how he’d set fire to his van and ended up in jail one Camerado told the kids “Just don’t bottle things up, ask other people for help.” You could hear ping drop.

One girl said that her Daddy had lived in the same hostel as Jay; another told the whole group that her mummy had slept on a mattress in the street with her when she was young but they had a house now. John told them he had been very naughty at school and wished he’d listened to his teachers which made the kids groan and the teachers beam! When Colin told them he was evicted from his caravan he asked them if they knew what “evicted” meant? It was a telling sign of the school’s neighbourhood that pretty much every kid knew what it meant.

Jay then got a big group of the kids to make bread with him, aprons on, covered in flour. He joked and laughed with them as they moulded the dough into their own shapes and sizes. Since working in the café Jay has been given an extra hour’s visitation rights with his son and you could tell he’d be a fun Dad.

When they put their coats on to go we asked them if they wanted to help fight things like homelessness. They said Yes. So we all handed out Camerados badges and told them that the best thing they could do was to look out for each other and be a good friend.

We must thank the head teacher and staff at Christ the King School in Blackpool for a great day…and for not getting cross when Skip handed out sweets as the kids filed out – a bit of minor rebellion never hurt, another taste of being in Camerados!

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