University friends reunite for rough sleeping fundraiser
Two friends who met at the University of Sussex are having a reunion with a difference as they prepare to sleep rough for charity.
Best friends Karen Marshall and Alison Holt will brave temperatures of near zero degrees celsius as they team up to take part in the YMCA Sleep Easy 2018 fundraiser this Friday (16 March) to raise money for YMCA DownsLink Group and local campaign Galvanise Brighton & Hove.
Karen, a research fellow at the University of Sussex, and NHS clinical psychologist Alison will join around 110 participants who will spend a night sleeping out at Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College (BHASVIC) with just cardboard and sleeping bags to protect them from the elements.
Karen said: “Nobody should be sleeping rough but especially not in a country and in a city that has so much wealth. We are going to be well looked after by the Sleep Easy organisers and we will have access to basic facilities like hot food and toilets, which are a luxury to people who have to go through this every night.
“Learning more about these great charities as we prepare for the fundraiser has inspired us both to want to do more and I think that will only grow once we’ve actually gone through with it and experienced to some degree what homeless people have to endure.”
Alison added: “It is great to be taking part in Sleep Easy and raise money for these local charities, and I am delighted Karen agreed to come along with me."
Chas Walker, CEO of YMCA DownsLink Group, said: “We’re so happy to have Karen and Alison joining us for a night sleeping under the stars, the aim of which is to raise money and awareness for homeless and vulnerable people. We have been overwhelmed by the support this year, with over 100 people now signed up in Brighton and Hove, and almost £25,000 raised across Brighton and Hove, Horsham and Guildford so far.”
Alison and Karen met at the University of Sussex in 2000 as undergraduates sharing the same halls of residence.
They have remained the best of friends ever since, despite both moving away from Sussex for a time - Karen to work in the US for three years and Alison as she travelled extensively around Asia.
Karen said: “Alison was the first friend I made at university and we’re still best friends to this day.
“We first met in our kitchen just after our parents had dropped us off, I think we made some food together and then went off to East Slope Bar.
“It was Alison who suggested doing this brilliant fundraiser as she has been volunteering with Galvanise Brighton & Hove and there’s no one else in the world we’d rather share this experience with than each other.”
Karen has come back to Sussex twice since graduating, first to do her PhD and then in 2013 as a postdoctoral researcher.
Over that time the University has gone through a huge amount of changes including the demolition of the East Slope residence, where Alison and Karen first met, which is being replaced with 2,100 modern study bedrooms.
Karen said: “Part of my nostalgia would have liked the old East Slope to stay but it is definitely time for it to go; there were rumours it was going to be knocked down when we were living in it.”
Karen currently works in the Serpell Lab in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Sussex.
She said: “I’m currently testing out how a drug can alleviate the build-up of proteins that occurs during Alzheimer’s.
“It is not often in Alzheimer’s research that someone makes a major breakthrough. We have had 30 years of quite solid research but there still hasn’t been a drug that can treat the causes of the diseases. I’m a small part in a big machine that is hopefully working bit-by-bit to find that solution which would bring relief to millions around the world.”
To donate to Karen and Alison, visit here