I recently had the opportunity to interview an incredible young man of God named Michael Olasope about a campaign that he started to create public awareness about the condition of homelessness. The campaign has garnered a lot of social media attention and Mr Olasope and his team recently won two awards for ‘Innovative Media Campaign & Social Change Media Project’ at the West Midlands Equinox Mix Media Festival. Check out the interview:
What is the Vermin Campaign?
Olasope: It is a campaign to raise awareness about the treatment of the homeless and the underprivileged. It aims to show people a different perspective. For example, people walk past people begging or people on the street all of the time. They often see it as just another person begging or another person who is probably on drugs. But what the Vermin Campaign is trying to do is show another perspective; not everyone is doing drugs or trying to make extra money. A lot of people are there because they have no other option.
For example the most recent homeless person I spoke to (exchange soon to be put on the Vermin Campaign Facebook page) told me that they were kicked on to the streets for helping the homeless. They let homeless people stay in their house which was against the building’s rules and regulations. Not a lot of people would think that this was the reason for their being on the streets, and would conclude that they were doing drugs, but no, they were kicked out for doing what a lot people refuse to do – help the homeless.
Why the name Vermin?
Olasope: If you listen to the Vermin video you hear someone praying at the end. That guy he said something that really stuck out for me; “we are treated less than human. We’re treated like trash, like garbage, less than human”. This has been echoed by all the people that I spoke to. As I reflected and listened to the interviews again the thing that came to my mind was that they are treated like rats, like things you see on the street and run away from. They are literally like rats, like vermin; there is no other word for it.
How did the Vermin Campaign start?
Olasope: I wrote the spoken word piece before I started speaking to the homeless. I decided to speak to them not because of the campaign but just to speak to them. As I met with them and spoke to them I wrote the poem from that place, and as I was writing this piece and coming up with the idea of the video, to create awareness about the video the campaign came about. After promoting the video I realised I had something bigger on my hands. I thought, “Let’s make it more than a video, and let’s make it a campaign to create awareness about how they are treated.” So the video and the poem came before the campaign.
What are your future plans for the Vermin Campaign?
Olasope: I hope to expand the campaign to include not just the homeless but those who are looked down on in society. I want to do more than interview homeless people. It is my personal dream to have a warehouse for homeless people, run by the homeless, those who are cleaning; cooking and maintaining it will be the homeless – it will be their home. I know that it will take a lot of strategising and resources to do this so I’m going to wait on God for it.
Coventry is just the beginning. By God’s grace I really want to expand it, firstly England, if possible worldwide. Wherever there are homeless people being treated like trash, being treated less than human, refused their basic amenities such as: food, shelter and water, the Vermin Campaign has to be there to create awareness, to create something for them.
How do we get involved?
Olasope: I’m planning to expand the Vermin Campaign so those who are interested in joining the Vermin Campaign can message me privately on twitter or via the Vermin Campaign page or email me. But for those who are definitely willing to get involved, it will start with getting their stories and putting them up on the Vermin Campaign’s page. Then hopefully with expansion and strategising it will be more about outreach, giving food and such.
I was definitely encouraged an inspired by Michael’s passion for those who are less fortunate and for his heart after God. I will definitely be watching this campaign and getting involved in the movement, I hope you will join me too!
Email: [email protected]
By Omolara Olusola
Omolara Olusola is a 3rd year undergraduate student. She is passionate about: Jesus, young people and social activism. You can read her blog at: www.probatonandshepherds.wordpress.com You can also follow her on twitter @_elaoh[/half][/row]