Malala Yousafzai visits Scotland to launch homelessness partnership

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has visited Edinburgh to mark the launch of a charity collaboration aimed at supporting thousands of homeless and displaced people around the world.

Her organisation, Malala Fund, is partnering with homelessness campaigners Social Bite in an international tie-up to help address the problem.

Under the plan, Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park concept – which raised millions of pounds for the charity in Scotland over the last two years – will be extended to other countries.

Organisers hope the project will see fundraising events take place in towns and cities across the world in December this year.

The campaign will aim to see around 50,000 people sleeping out on the same night, in a bid to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness and international displacement.

Education campaigner Ms Yousafzai, whose fund is described as both a key partner and a beneficiary in the project, visited Social Bite’s Edinburgh restaurant Vesta for a private lunch on Wednesday and she was also due to speak at an evening dinner at the city’s EICC.

Ms Yousafzai, 21, a co-founder of Malala Fund, said: “Educated girls have the power to transform our world. But without a home or access to education, millions of refugee and displaced girls are unable to fulfil their potential.

“I am excited to partner with Social Bite and have their support for Malala Fund’s work to get refugee girls get back in school.”

Social Bite started as a sandwich shop in Edinburgh in August 2012 and it has grown to have five shops in Scotland.

A quarter of its staff are homeless and the charity has notably received visits from Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney.

Its Sleep in the Park events in Scotland in 2017 and 2018 raised over £7 million and saw more than 18,000 people sleeping out.

Under the new proposals, a fundraising target in the millions of pounds will be distributed to a range of charities throughout the world.

The project will also work with UNICEF USA and the Institute of Global Homelessness to support homeless and displaced people with the funds raised.

Social Bite co-founder Josh Littlejohn MBE said: “It was such an honour for Social Bite to host Malala’s visit to Scotland. Malala’s fight for girls’ education and the work her foundation does in supporting refugees and creating social justice is an inspiration.

“I’m thrilled that Malala’s visit marks the announcement of our World’s Big Sleepout campaign, to bring our ‘Sleep in the Park’ event concept to an international stage.

“We have seen the power of the events in Scotland in terms of raising significant funds to make a difference to homeless people and to shine the political spotlight on this issue.”

Pakistan-born Ms Yousafzai made headlines after she was shot in the head by Taliban militants in 2012 for speaking up for women’s education.

Her career as an activist began in early 2009, when she started writing a blog about her life under Taliban occupation and promoting education for girls in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

But her campaign angered local militants and she was shot in an assassination attempt while taking the bus to school.

She was treated at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital and, fearing reprisals in her native country, made the city her home.

In 2014 she became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

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