Sheringham youngsters spend night as slum dwellers

A bedraggled, tired, hungry and unwashed group of young people headed for the comforts of their north Norfolk homes after an eye-opening night spent as slum-dwellers.

The group of about 30, plus adult helpers, left their mobile phones, MP3 players, cosmetics, hair straighteners, and even torches behind when they camped overnight in a field, with meals of only boiled rice and water.

All were members of Sheringham Baptist Church who were taking part in a sponsored challenge aimed at drawing attention to the plight of one sixth of the world's population who live in extreme poverty.

The youngsters made their slums out of discarded materials, including wooden pallets, cardboard and tarpaulins, and had to share one toilet between about 45 people.

Before settling down for the night they took part in a number of challenges faced by real people in the developing world, including filling up a container by ferrying leaking cartons of water for some distance.

Challenge victors were rewarded with a dollop of dahl - cooked lentils - with their plain rice.

Emma Holt, 14, said she had suffered a bad night's sleep with no pillow, and had felt cold, despite a sleeping bag.

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Josh Mutton, 15, said he had been kept awake by the bumps in the ground and missed having a watch to tell him the time. 'I will definitely have more respect now for people who live like this every day,' he said. 'If I had to, I'd be a very different person.' Both teenagers were looking forward to getting clean and having lunch.

Youth pastor Pete Skivington said the experience had been fun, but also tough and quite an experience for the youngsters. Some had got wet as their slums had not kept out overnight rain.

The project was part of a national initiative called Slum Survivor, part of Soul Action which will use sponsorship money to try and alleviate the suffering of slum-dwellers in countries including South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Mr Skivington said: 'As Christians, we think God cares deeply about this suffering and wants to see it changed. We think we have the power to do something about it.'

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