Big Bethany Sleepout

Date: 14th Dec 2023 Author: Scout Websites

Big Bethany Sleepout

On Saturday 7th October more than 200 Guides, Rangers, Young Leaders and adult volunteers gave up their beds to sleep outside in the grounds of George Heriot’s School to raise money to help people in Scotland who are experiencing homelessness. 

On Saturday morning it was heavy rain and the forecast was not looking good. After checking whether we could use the gym hall, if necessary and an emergency planning team Zoom call we decided to go ahead despite the weather.

We had a few call offs but, as one Guide told her mum, “I’m looking forward to the adventure. If I get wet it’s only for one night and not every night like those we are doing this for”.


The rain had died down to drizzle by the time we arrived at Heriot’s but it rained again off and on all evening. At the opening ceremony in the assembly hall, we watched a short video about the work of Bethany Christian Trust and Rachael and Luana from Bethany explained what they do to help the homeless. We then queued for soup from Bethany’s Care Van (for homeless people this is an essential service without which many would go to bed cold and hungry).

Activities followed – a wide game involving coloured bar codes being painted on faces warmed everyone running around the playground with the castle lit up behind, a quiz to see who had been paying attention to Rachael’s facts about homelessness, a flash mob dance routine and shelter building. We sang camp fire songs in the gym hall then it was time to queue again for hot chocolate and muffins before bedding down for the night on the cold hard flagstones. Many managed to find shelter from the rain under the archways and in the stairwells while others settled down in the Quadrangle in their survival bags on wet soggy cardboard. Most people did actually get a few hours sleep.

Breakfast rolls and hot drinks were served at 7am before a final clear up, group photograph and home for a bath and a nice warm comfortable bed!

The consensus of those taking part was:  “It was so cold and so wet but so much fun”.

Thanks to Empty Kitchens Full Hearts (a charity based in Granton who provide healthy meals, made from surplus food, free of charge for people that need them) for providing the soup, and to Scott and Luke who arrived at 6am with the breakfast rolls. Thanks to Tesco who donated the hot chocolate and orange juice.

Those taking part were all sponsored for giving up their bed for a night. Units also held bake sales and other fundraising events. We set a fundraising target of £21 per person which is the cost of providing a homeless person with a warm safe bed for a night, hot food and some good professional advice. We have more than doubled this and so far have raised over £15,000.

In addition to raising money the event gave our young members an insight into the challenges faced by people experiencing homelessness.

An email from a Guide’s parent sums up the event: Thank you so much for such a learning opportunity. My Guide is buzzing with pride at having managed to sleep out, after being anxious about it she has such a sense of achievement. This really is what Guides is all about, empowering young women to tackle challenging situations and helping others in the process.”


Anne Mackintosh

County Events Lead Volunteer

Girlguiding Edinburgh

Girls take what they do in guiding with them as they grow up. Everything from working in a team, to taking the lead, to speaking out on issues they care about. It helps them develop the skills and confidence to become the young women they want to be. ’