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Aviva staff experience life on city's streets

PUBLISHED: 14:50 25 May 2010 | UPDATED: 16:47 01 July 2010

Mary Hamilton

Aviva staff took to the streets and slept rough to raise cash for charity - and had their eyes opened to the plight of street sleepers in the process.

As part of a national event, 68 people from the company's Norwich offices slept in the streets outside Surrey House for 12 hours on Friday night.

Aviva staff took to the streets and slept rough to raise cash for charity - and had their eyes opened to the plight of street sleepers in the process.

As part of a national event, 68 people from the company's Norwich offices slept in the streets outside Surrey House for 12 hours on Friday night.

The sleep out, which raised about £100,000 nationally, was in aid of the company's Street to School programme, which is designed to help vulnerable children get off the streets and back into education, in conjunction with the Railway Children charity.

Rachel Gregory, who organised the Norwich event, said the experience had been eye-opening and had taught her a huge amount about the experiences of homeless people. “You suddenly understand how people just can't function,” she said. “We felt so horrible on the Saturday morning and it just makes you realise some of what it must be like for people who can't go home afterwards.

“What we did wasn't like spending a night properly homeless - we had access to hot drinks and toilets, we were in a large group and we had our security there.

“But you did genuinely have a worry for your own safety, and you just felt so grimy afterwards.

“It was very difficult to sleep and there was constant noise from cars and buses.

“But we could go home on Saturday morning, have a shower and catch up on our sleep. For people who can't do that it must be an incredibly hard life. I would encourage everyone to do something like this. It changes the way you think.”

Chief executive Mark Hodges, who also slept rough, said: “We are incredibly proud of our staff - what a fantastic team effort.

“Since we announced our Street to School programme we've had a hugely positive response, but it's fair to say that the fundraising has exceeded our expectations.

“Our commitment is not just financial though, it's about raising awareness of the issue and highlighting the fact that there are thousands of children sleeping on UK streets. We have much more activity lined up for later in the year so watch this space.”

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