King’s lecturer stars in social experiment

Her own students walked right past her

Kcl Islamic Society Ark orgnised a social experiment on homelessness around campus. It was part of their ‘Acts of Random Kindness’ project.

Naveed Khan and Andrew Baigey act in the video with Dr. Despo Papachristodoulou starring as a homeless person. Despite teaching 900 medics, 150 dentists and 450 biomedical students, no one stopped to speak to her or recognised her.

We spoke to Naveed to find out more:

What was the purpose of this experiment?

It was to highlight that every homeless person has a story. Quite often, they can be living their day to day lives not so different to us, but a series of events leads them to finding themselves in the unfortunate situation of no fixed abode. However, the stigma around homelessness means that once in this situation, they are ostracised by society and it is very isolating.

Why do you think no-one stopped to speak to Dr. Despo?

Two of my friends actually got in touch to say that they walked past her on the day of filming. They said she caught their attention and they thought she looked familiar, but they didn’t feel comfortable stopping to talk. We’re all guilty of it.

What do you hope to gain from the experiment?

We hope to humanise the issue of homelessness and encourage them to give their time where they can. Even a simple smile and an exchange of niceties can make the world of difference. The homeless should stop feeling like exiles of society.

What would you say to people who feel conflicted about giving money to a homeless person (not knowing how they’ll spend it e.g. drinking/drugs)?

I’d say to remember that “even a smile is charity!”. However, if you want to help in other ways, there are lots of responsible charities out there doing some amazing work on the streets that you can could donate to (Centrepoint), or you can volunteer through organisations (i.e. Children of Adam run a weekly soup kitchen on Sunday evenings). However, when you’re out and about and you see someone, just take them to the nearest cafe or convenience store and ask them if there is anything you could buy them.