Sofa-surfing – how a charity challenged a definition

Posted on April 27, 2012

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I’m used to talking about tech around the home. I’ve had to do it for a job and I’m a bit more interested than the average person about how all kinds of technology are changing our lives.

Sometimes it’s quite straightforward stuff. In the past few years, accelerated by the introduction of the iPad and smarter smart-phones, many of us have become used to watching TV and being online at the same time. Some of us have referred to that as ‘sofa-surfing’. In fact, I came to use the term a lot.

But this past week I learnt a different definition.

I’m doing Byte Night again this year, the UK tech industry’s annual sponsored sleep-out in aid of youth homelessness charity Action for Children. Byte Night is in its 15th year but this is the first time I’ve been on the board, so my interest six months out has been greater than ever.

As part of our education about the charity we visited the Phoenix Project in South Wimbledon to find out about the work of those employed by Action for Children and to meet a young person whose life has been helped by the charity.

It was a fascinating and moving couple of hours. Everyone involved spoke passionately and eloquently about what they do. The Phoenix Centre is very close to where I live, around the corner from my little girl’s school, but I’ve never experienced or even seen up close the kind of domestic problems that can – if not tackled by the likes of social workers or Action for Children – result in teenagers on the street.

And it struck me just how divorced I am from this when the woman in charge of the facility mentioned “sofa-surfing”. For a split second I wondered what a cosy night of messing around on a laptop or iPad while watching trash TV had to do with anything.

Then I realised she meant kids who end up moving from one sofa to another – from one relative or friend’s house every few days or weeks, as they have no home, no certainty.

I felt like an idiot, an idiot who’s very lucky to have never had to worry about that, for me or anyone I love.

We heard about cuts from government (around 10%) to the facility we visited and hopefully this year we’ll help bridge that and do more, across Action for Children facilities all over the country.

I won’t pretend I won’t be asking you and business contacts to help with this good cause over the next few months. Please get involved in Byte Night if that feels right for you – or outsource it to me. You can do that via my Virgin Money Giving page.

Thanks for listening.

Follow Tony on Twitter – @tphallett

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