Christmas is a time for giving; we give gifts to our friends, our family and even ourselves, but what about those who are less fortunate?
When UCLan student Dominique Harrison-Bentzen was on her way home from a night out she realised that she’d lost her bank card and had no money to get home. When homeless Robbie stepped in to offer her his only change of £3 Dominique was left touched by the kind gesture especially as it came from someone who faces ignorance every day.
This seemingly random act of kindness is what inspired Dominique to help Robbie as she set out on a mission to find him. Whilst looking for him Dominique discovered that the random act of kindness wasn’t so random after all as she learnt about his gestures for other people like returning lost wallets and offering his scarf to try and keep people warm.
After finding Robbie she learnt his story, having been homeless for 7 months he was left unable to find work as he has no permanent residence.
Dominique was determined to help and started a fund raising page urging people to sponsor her £3, in honour of the £3 Robbie offered to her, as she prepared to spend 24 hours living on the streets to help her understand the difficulties they face whilst helping Robbie find a home.
“It was one of the most worthwhile things I’ve ever done”
The fund raiser was a massive success and her original goal of £500 was blown out of the water after she raised over £32,000. The overwhelming response to the cause has led to Dominique creating a follow-up page entitled Continue Helping Robbie which has so far raised another £12,000.
Once the media picked up on Dominique’s effort to repay Robbie’s kindness awareness of the cause grew which even lead to technical difficulties on her donation page due to a reported “unusually high number of visitors”.
Spending 24 hours on the streets is something that Dominique has described as “one of the most worthwhile things I’ve ever done” and whilst she’s aware that 24 hours isn’t a true reflection of what life is really like being homeless she told us that “having a small insight was definitely valuable.”
During the fundraising she also volunteered at a soup kitchen which gave her the chance to meet many people and families who were in need. She said the volunteer work was an “eye opening experience” and the work the kitchen does has encouraged her to continue working with the cause in the coming year.
Whilst Robbie wishes to remain out of the media there’s no denying that the fundraising has had a positive impact for him. Thanks to the donations he was able to stay in a safe and secure accommodation over the Christmas period whilst he prepares to move in to his permanent new home.
The volume of money raised looks set to have a wider impact too as Robbie suggested that anything that was donated over his target should be donated to the charities that helped him throughout his difficult times. Dominique also told us that she personally felt “it would be irresponsible to not help as many people as possible with the large amount that has been raised.” and that the majority of donators are “passionate” about the idea.
Donating to charities is something that Dominique is taking seriously, taking suggestions from those who have donated and Robbie himself, and she is now seeking professional advice as she wants to ensure that everyone’s donations are “handled in the most respectful and responsible way.”