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Catholic pupils, staff and parishoners brave ‘horrendous weather’ in global homeless sleep out

85 senior pupils from St Columba’s High School in Dunfermline and nearby Woodmill High School teamed up to take part in The World’s Big Sleep Out in West Princes Street Gardens on Saturday December 7.

Led by teacher Ruairi Mulholland, principal teacher of RE at St Columba’s, they have so far managed to raise over £9,000 to help the homeless.

The two schools have been working very closely since September when an arson attack engulfed Woodmill High School, meaning many senior pupils are being taught within the St Columba’s building.

Shoulder to shoulder

On their joint virginmoneygiving page pupils state: “St Columba’s and Woodmill were the top two fundraising schools for ‘Sleep In The Park’ events in 2017 and 2018.

“This is amazing, considering the two schools are so close, but now the S6 Students are even closer! Since the devastating fire in the Woodmill DAS Unit, the school’s S6 Cohort have followed the timetable at St Columba’s so it made perfect sense for the two groups to stand shoulder to shoulder in the World’s Big Sleep Out 2019.”

St Margaret’s Academy, Livingston, also had 30 pupils and staff taking part in what was described as ‘horrendous weather’, managing to surpass their fundraising target of £1,500 to raise over £2,000.

A spokesperson for St Margaret’s Academy said: “A fantastic effort at the ‘Big Sleep Out’ from our amazing and dedicated pupils who were there till the bitter wet and windy end.

“They endured horrendous weather last night, rain, high winds and hail and were then given a wake up call from a piper to end the event.”


Leaders from different faiths in Scotland, united to challenge the moral injustice of homelessness and lent their support to the event. They included Fr Basil Clark, vicar episcopal of Caritas, Justice & Peace in the St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese.

He said: “Life without the security and shelter of a decent home can break the human spirit, destroy family life and has the capacity to lead to further social evils.

“The World’s Big Sleep Out raises our awareness of this terrible issue. A tragedy, which demands of us both compassion and creative determination to challenge those in authority—and ourselves—to prioritise the poorest and most vulnerable in society.”

The World’s Big Sleep Out has its roots in Scotland, with the first sleep out in Edinburgh in 2016 organised by Social Bite’s co-founder Josh Littlejohn MBE.

Faiths united

The aim was for tens of thousands of people to sleep out around the world and to raise millions of pounds globally for charities tackling local homelessness.

Mr Littlejohn said: “It’s uplifting to see the faith leaders of Scotland coming together. To tackle homelessness, we need operate collectively, with each faith community bringing its passion for social justice and social capital.

“The World’s Big Sleep Out has its inspiration in Scotland, so it’s fantastic to have the support of its faith leaders.”

Also taking part are parishioners from St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, Maggie Paterson, Margaret Halloran and James Walker, who have raised over £4,000.

The event in Edinburgh was one of 50 locations around the world that held a mass sleep out last Saturday.

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