We talk to Standard Bank Group’s Personal and Business Banking CEO, Peter Schlebusch
to find out how he survived sleeping on Joburg's streets.
Tell me about what happened on the night…
It was a very humbling experience. It was a good event and I enjoyed it. It was thought provoking and gave you a deeper appreciation for the plight of the homeless people in our country particularly the children on how difficult and desperate their lives were like. It gives you more empathy. Even though you could get a bit warm you couldn’t get comfortable it was challenging. IN the early morning when you’re struggling to sleep you start to wonder how the thousands of people in our lovely country go to sleep like this every night full of fear and little help for the future.
Did you get any sleep?
I got about two, at best three hours. So I was a bit tired the next day. It was a bit of a sanitised environment though so I didn’t have to fear for my safety as much as a homeless person would. I didn’t have that fear and I still struggled to sleep. Plus it wasn’t a particularly cold night and the wind wasn’t blowing. So it was a favourable environment.
We were made much more comfortable. Safety was assured. Area was cordoned off. And we did get a delicious helping on Reuben’s soup but those sorts of things start to rub off when it’s 3am in the morning and you’re sleeping on the tar floor.
What was the point of it all?
I think you will have a lot of cynics on the side-lines who didn’t participate who think it’s about personal publicity. For me it was really important and in a small way I wanted to raise awareness for homeless people and I wanted to understand and empathise with the homeless too. That certainly does come through. I think it certainly raised a lot of awareness and more importantly it raised a lot about homelessness across the whole circle of CEOs that participated. It also raised a lot of money for a very worthy cause: Girls and Boys Town
who do some fantastic work. I have contributed to this cause for a while. This single event has raised more money, from what I am lead to believe, than any other single charity event in South Africa. It also raised more money than the Sydney Sleepout, despite the ten to one currency conversion and it raised almost R24 million which is half Girls and Boys town annual revenue budget. I think it goes a long way to make a meaningful difference. You certainly can’t solve all the problems through a single event but I think that we can make a difference in our own small way in this country.
What was the goal in terms of raising money?
Their aspiration was to get 250 CEOs participating and we had to raise about R100, 000 each. I raised just under R120, 000.
Was this the roughest sleep out you’ve had in your lifetime?
No I wouldn’t say so. I enjoy the outdoors and I hike extensively so I have slept out in the rain and cold temperatures. That’s why I said this was a bit of a sanitised experience and it could’ve been changed fundamentally by the weather we had. WE were fortunate that the weather was good. Hopefully this will be continued next year and if it does I will not hesitate to take part again.
How will you support the homeless following this event?
I will continue to donate to Girls and Boys town – I think that they do fantastic work. Each of us can all help in a small way even if you just say hello to homeless people that beg on the side of the road. Just look in their eyes and acknowledge them as a real person. South African’s ability to look the other way and make them feel invisible is second to none. I think each of us can treat people like human beings.