Even young kids know we should do something about homelessness – Hayley Matthews

Hayley's Nerf Gun Party went down a treat with the birthday boy and his friends. Picture: Getty
Hayley's Nerf Gun Party went down a treat with the birthday boy and his friends. Picture: Getty
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My seven-year-old son Harris always wants to help a homeless man we see sometimes, so we decided to raise donations of clothes by holding a Nerf Gun Party for him and his friends, writes Hayley Matthews.

I genuinely, every day, feel incredibly lucky. We have clean water, a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. It’s more than most have so I want to pass on that awareness to my boys so they can grow up feeling grateful and help ­others in need.

I’ve written before about a homeless man we see sometimes and how my seven-year-old, Harris, always wants to give him food and clean clothes. It got me thinking how we could do ­something to help and what we came up with was a huge success.

We hired out Bellfield Hall in ­Portobello to hold a Nerf Gun Party, invited loads of Harris’s friends, and asked them to bring donations of old clothes for those living on the streets. The Evening News wrote last ­winter about how shelters were calling out for clothes donations as supplies were low, so we thought we’d get ahead of the game by bringing in some supplies now as the weather takes a cold damp turn, all whilst the kids get an end-of-summer party.

I grew up two doors down from the hall, which gave me many good childhood memories. I’m so relieved that the former Portobello Old Parish Church buildings survived closure after a successful campaign saved them for community use.

Action Porty was granted the right to buy the buildings last year and Bellfield reopened to the community, providing a space for many events and celebrations, so it was perfect for us. I danced on the stage in the hall as a tot, so how lovely to have my son make great memories there too.

We turned up early to let Ashleigh from Activity Delivered in to set up the hall. She brought in boxes filled with equipment from her van and in no time she had it looking like an army assault course ready for action. I looked at the hall all set up for the kids and have to admit, it was a good feeling knowing they’d be having fun whilst doing some good. I could tell Harris felt good about it too.

The kids turned up with loads of bags for us to put in my dad’s camper van, which would get delivered to the Bethany Trust’s Jane Street Depot later that day, and everyone ran about excitedly before sitting down with Ashleigh for a safety briefing.

She was brilliant with the kids and gave them two hours of fun-filled Nerf gunning whilst foam bullets filled the air. The goggles made them all look like mini Bonos from U2 as they darted about firing foam at each other.

The kids all clearly had a lot of fun but the message also got through about helping others as I overheard a few conversations. One boy, Oliver, now wants to make lemonade and donate his proceeds to The Dog and Cat home so my mission is complete! After ­ducking and diving for hours, the kids all thanked Ashleigh, waving goodbye as they begged their mums to hold a Nerf Gun Party (sorry). It really was a huge success and everyone commented on what a great idea it was and how much fun everyone had.

We collected lots of supplies and warm clothing to pass on to the poor souls forced to live on the cold streets of Edinburgh – whilst it won’t take away all their suffering, I’m hoping it helps.

So from Harris and myself, to all the families who donated, to the Bellfield Hall and to Activity Delivered, thank you for helping us help others in their time of need. Let’s do it again soon!