Folding Sleeping Bags

“What on earth have you got your self into now” That was the response from my other half when I told him I had to get up at 5am on Wednesday morning. I explained that I was going to work a shift at the night shelter on Greenleaf Road in Walthamstow, knowing that I don’t have the sunniest disposition in the early mornings, he suggested that it might not be a good idea to be near people that early on in the day. But he understood that this was something I really wanted to do, so he prepared himself to push me out of bed when the alarm went off, and to cover his ears when I was being less than thankful for his assistance.

I first started thinking about doing something like this around Christmas time, I saw some young kids picking on the guys that sleep under the Sainsbury’s car park behind Walthamstow High Street. I didn’t get around to doing anything about it, but my interest was raised again when I attended the first seven days for stow meeting a few weeks ago, seven days for stow is a local micro volunteering project. One thing led to another and before long I was booked to go and work at the shelter. I received my instructions by email on Tuesday. I was told to be at the building at 6am, ring the reception bell and one of the other volunteers would come and meet me. I’m a bit of an over thinker, so in the short time between receiving my instructions and working the shift I had created all sorts of scenarios. What happens if the door bell doesn’t work? what happens if they don’t know I’m coming? what if I burn the toast!?.

Having never done anything like this before I was feeling pretty nervous so woke up way before the alarm went off. I also left home far to early, so if you live on Greenleaf road and saw someone walk past your house a few times on Wednesday morning, that was me, sorry. I had absolutely nothing to worry about though. When I arrived I was met by the other volunteers, offered tea and told what they needed to me to do. My task was to help tidy up and pack away the sleeping stuff. It was pretty easy really, folding sleeping bags, taking pillow cases off and stacking everything in a cupboard. The tasks were easy but needed, the building has to be handed back over to its owners at 8am, so it’s essential that all evidence of the night shelter are cleared away. The people who spent the night in the shelter helped us tidy up, giving us sleeping bags and collecting razors or towels so they could have a shower. One young chap asked me what I was doing that day, I told him I was heading to work and asked him the same question, his response hit me like a brick “Just trying to find some food and somewhere warm “. His comment put my work based worries in to real perspective.

The shift took two hours out of my day, afterwards I trundled up Hoe Street, got on the Victoria Line and went to work. I’m so pleased I finally got my self involved in the Walthamstow night shelter, and in the grand scheme of things two hours is nothing really, I spend longer than that watching crap TV. And that’s the point of micro volunteering, you don’t set out to change the world, just give it a little nudge in the right direction.


  1. Totally in awe of you. well done. I went to learn about mentoring a vulnerable child in WF on Monday – unfortunately I’m not able to do this round of training – but later in the year I am totally there.

    And I plan to help out at the Sally Army shop down on Forest Rd.

    Just got to sort my life out first 😉

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