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Retrak Raises Awareness With Shape History Video

On Halloween, a day when people in the UK might expect to see children on their doorstep, we wanted to see how people would react to a ‘homeless girl’ knocking on their door. Retrak collaborated with the creative agency Shape History to conduct a social experiment in which a child actor posed as a homeless child and knocked on doors in London to find out how people would respond when faced with a similar situation.

Nine-year-old Jessica Bray knocked on doors in a neighbourhood in north London to see what would happen if people believed they were faced with a child living on the street. Some of the reactions captured real kindness but we also saw a glimpse of the rejection that children forced to live on the streets experience daily.
Jessica was asked what she needed, where she was going, where she came from and whether or not she was lost. She was even asked if she wanted to come inside.  However, not everyone responded in such a way. Some locked the door, others asked why Jessica was knocking on their door and told her to knock on another door.

The Shape History team said “We didn’t expect such negative reactions from some people towards such a young ‘helpless’ child, but of course we were uplifted by others.”

Mike Buonaiuto, Executive Director for Shape History added “at first we only captured random acts of kindness but pretty soon we started to also see the darker side of London.”

The motivation behind the video was to raise awareness of the issues that street children face. The contrast between the offers Jessica got from people wanting to call the police for help and those who used the police as a way to threaten her really resonated with Retrak’s work. Our projects are increasingly engaging with the police to show that children living on the streets are not criminals but are often the victims of crimes themselves.

While the experiment highlights the varying and often alarming responses people have when faced with children in need, we do not feel it is representative of the population.

Jessica was briefed in advance of the experiment to ensure her safety wasn’t compromised. Jessica’s mum and the crew were outside the properties at all times and they were in contact with her via a radio.

To watch the video please click here.