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Winnipeg woman running to raise awareness, funds for children without beds

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A Winnipeg woman is running five kilometres a day for the month of May to raise awareness on how many children in the city are without a bed. Global's Marney Blunt has more. – May 24, 2021

A Winnipeg woman is running five kilometres a day for the month of May, hoping to raise awareness on how many children are without a bed in the city.

Maria Cefali volunteers with Sleep in Heavenly Peace Winnipeg, a non-profit organization that builds and delivers beds to children and families in need. Her goal is to raise $5,000 by the end of the month.

“That $5,000 equates to 14 beds; 14 children who could potentially be in a bed of their own by the end of the month,” she said.

She also says for many families, it’s so much more than just a bed to sleep in.

“When we go out and deliver these beds, this isn’t just a piece of furniture we’re delivering to these children, this is a sense of dignity,” she said.

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“These children are sleeping on the floor, in some cases they don’t know what it’s like to sleep on a bed of their own. So it gives them a sense of dignity, it gives them a sense of space no matter what’s going on in their lives, they have their own bed where they can rest and have a good night’s sleep.”

Read more: Nearly 29% of Saskatchewan children living in poverty under age of 6: Report

“This truly is not only dignity for a child and a sense of self-worth, but also dignity for the entire family.”

The demand for beds for children in Winnipeg is high.

“There’s a huge need for this charity here in Winnipeg,” Sleep in Heavenly Peace Winnipeg chapter president Jim Thiessen told Global News.

“We estimate, based on statistics that have been gathered over the last number of years by the U.S. part of the organization, that two per cent of the child population here in Winnipeg do not have a bed to sleep on. So that breaks down to about 3,000 to 4,000 children in Winnipeg that don’t have a bed at all to sleep in.”

Read more: Family of four needs income of $62,000 to live in Montreal, study finds

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Thiessen, a retired police officer with the Winnipeg Police Service, says he knew there was a need for children’s beds in the city from what he saw while on the job.

“I saw it far too often here in Winnipeg, I would go to homes and see children sleeping on the floor or in conditions that would surprise most people,” Thiessen said.

The Winnipeg chapter of Sleep in Heavenly launched last year, and Thiessen says they’ve built 232 beds since and have installed 100 of them. But the COVID-19 pandemic has hampered their ability to accept new applications, hold donation drives, and build and deliver the beds as well. Thiessen says they had assistance from Tec Voc High School students, who helped build beds during the winter when the volunteers weren’t able to.

They currently have 160 children on their waiting list, and Thiessen is looking forward to getting back at it.

“It really is the magical part of this charity when you go in and you are there to experience the joy on a child’s face when they see their bed for the very first time,” he said.

“But what did surprise me a little bit was the reactions from the parents when they saw these beds, because you could see that sense of joy as well but also that relief that they were now able to provide something for their child.”

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