Photographer Mike Sheil and former High Sheriff of Oxfordshire Jane Cranston will be spending 7 nights in 7 Gainfield churchyards to raise awareness of the challenges and disadvantage young people face today - and vital funds for YoCO and Aspire, two Oxfordshire charities supporting local young people with wellbeing, education, training, employment and housing.

Why? In Mike's own words...

The lives of young people are significantly impacted by lack of food, education, a stable domestic environment and, in some cases, the trauma of trafficking and war. Their lives are changed forever, and we would be failing as a society if we did not seek to rebuild them.

Here in the UK, COVID-19 has brought its own challenges to the lives of young people, and led to a reported 65% increase in calls to national helplines by young people. A rise in reports of domestic violence combined with disruption to education and social groups has led to many young people feeling confused, isolated and forgotten.

In Oxfordshire, the number of children in care has risen by 80% over the past ten years - with an additional 21% increase since the start of the pandemic. Official figures show that, today, 31% of young people leaving care fail to enter education, training or employment, rising to 39% for those aged 19-21.

As a photographer, I have witnessed the impact of conflict and poverty upon children and, as a paid observer, it could even be said that I have profited from my documentation of their distress. When I was young, I made mistakes - I received support, and was able to undertake a successful working career. So, it seems right and proper that, in turn, I should seek to support the next generation who are growing up in such bewildering times - and, in the words of Nelson Mandela, are the rock on which our future will be built.

7 nights, 7 churchyards

At Christmas, we recall the birth of child in the bleak surrounds of a stable far from its family home - so it seems wholly appropriate and timely to remind people of the challenges young people face today.

I have chosen the seven churchyards of Gainfield as a shelter throughout my week of rough sleeping, as churches have long been regarded as a sheltering haven in times of need:

12/12/21 - Littleworth
13/12/21 - Pusey
14/12/21 - Charney Bassett
15/12/21 - Lyford
16/12/21 - Longworth
17/12/21 - Hinton Waldrist
18/12/21 - Buckland

Donate to Mike's Rough Sleep to support Aspire Oxford & YoCO

YoCO and Aspire Oxford

Aspire and YoCO are two local charities seeking to reach out to and support young people who are often neglected. From low confidence, isolation and bullying on social media to neglect, abuse and exclusion from the home, these charities seek to fill the void left by government cut-backs.

All funds raised through Mike's Rough Sleep will be distributed equally between YoCO and Aspire respectively.

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