By: Mimi Mutahi
“You cannot just wear a hijab for a day and understand the experiences of being a person that wears a hijab,” Equity facilitator Jenica Frisque says in response to the annual ‘5 Days for the Homeless’ campaign hosted by the Management Student Association (MSA) at UBCO. With recent criticism brought forward by UBCO administrators and faculty members regarding the 5 Days for the Homeless campaign, will this be the last year this event happens?
Since 2005, Business students across the country participate in this annual campaign, in which they simulate the living conditions of people that experience homelessness by sleeping outdoors and giving up luxury activities. The MSA at UBCO started participating in this nation-wide campaign to raise awareness on the experiences of homelessness in Kelowna, and to raise donations to support Kelowna’s H.O.P.E Outreach program.
Jenica Frisque is heavily involved with Equity and Inclusion work on the UBCO campus and fears the fragility of this campaign’s method of camping outside. In choosing to display the experiences of homelessness in the way they do, it has the “potential to be offensive” to individuals actually experiencing homelessness.
Similarly, Robyn Bunn, a UBCO staff member at the Student Experience Office, has also voiced some reservations regarding the campaign put on by the MSA. Although Robyn appreciates the hard work the students put in towards the fundraiser portion, she finds that the “camping outside” portion reinforces negative stereotypes about the experiences of homelessness in Kelowna.
“I also find that this campaign can sometimes fail to recognize the work already being done by organizations in the community,” Robyn further explains. She has been in conversation with community organizations that have voiced their frustration with the campaigns repetitive portrayal of homelessness, which has failed to recognize the strides the community has taken to improve the experiences of homelessness in Kelowna.
As this school year comes to an end, Robyn does not want to see this campaign come to an end, as she believes the fundraiser portion has tremendous benefits for the community. She does, however, aim to create a relationship with the new executive team that will be ushered in for the 2020/2021 academic year and encourages them to rethink their campaign strategies. With feedback from UBCO staff and from the Kelowna community, the ball is now in MSA’s court on how they shall respond.