11 - Sharon BakerThree years ago I started volunteering at SIFA Fireside as part of my company’s corporate social responsibility initiative. SIFA Fireside is a local charity tackling homelessness, alcohol misuse and social exclusion and Birmingham’s only drop-in centre. It was meant to be a one-off action, preparing and serving breakfast to the homeless between 8 and 10 o’clock. But to me it started becoming something I cared about more than just for a couple of hours on a Tuesday morning.

Something had changed. I started feeling truly compassionate about those lonely men and women who spent their nights in the open cold. Each morning they would gather and patiently wait for the doors to open. There they would receive tea and coffee, a bowl of cereal or butter on toast. Later on a light lunch would be provided. Those few hours they spent at the charity were the best hours of their day. It was a place of company and a place where they could have a meal and a hot drink, and get clean clothes. It was a sanctuary – a warm, dry place with a roof over their heads. Many hard working volunteers ensured that the homeless could, at least for a short part of the day, live and be treated like humans. Imagine being able to take a hot shower on a cold, winter day.

Witnessing the gratitude and seeing the change the charity was making in their lives, it forever changed the way I look at homeless people, who are so often judged and mistreated. I decided to get more involved. Last year some of my colleagues and I heard about the NHS Change Day campaign and we pledged to start volunteering on regular basis and commit to offer our time and resources when most needed.

Recently I have received some sad news. Due to a lack of funding the drop-in centre will be forced to close its doors on weekends. Starting from today, for the first time this year the most vulnerable people in our city will not be able to come together, warm up and get a hot drink on Saturdays and Sundays. In the spirit of this year’s NHS Change Day, which is all about action, I decided to set up the ‘Birmingham Teapot campaign’ and start fundraising. My aim is to raise enough funds that will ensure the facility can be re-open and offer its services on weekends.

If you are compassionate about the desperate and lonely and about those who sleep in the open, please use the NHS Change Day 2015 initiative and commit to making a positive change, whether through raising awareness or helping in specific ways, and inspire others by showing compassion and kindness to those who most need it!