Rhona Hutchon: Taking a bite out of disadvantaged beginnings

Fortunately, most of us are lucky enough to have had a safe and stable family home. Can you imagine how your life may have turned out completely differently without that foundation?
This year marks the tenth anniversary of Byte Night in Scotland. Picture: Neil HannaThis year marks the tenth anniversary of Byte Night in Scotland. Picture: Neil Hanna
This year marks the tenth anniversary of Byte Night in Scotland. Picture: Neil Hanna

On Friday 6 October, around 200 people from across the technology and business community will take part in Byte Night Scotland, sleeping under the stars in two locations – Charlotte Square Gardens in Edinburgh and Blythswood Square in Glasgow – to raise funds and awareness of Action for Children’s efforts in tackling youth homelessness.

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Byte Night is Action for Children’s annual sleepout fundraiser, raising money to support vulnerable and neglected children, young people and their families supported by more than 600 services across the UK. Each year, teams from over 400 businesses spend a night exposed to the elements in a great effort to ensure that every child has a safe and loving place to call home.

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This year marks the tenth anniversary of Byte Night in Scotland as well as the 20 years since the event was first launched in London, when 35 sleepers raised £35,000.

Since 1998, Byte Night has grown to 11 simultaneous events taking place right across the UK with more than 1200 people sleeping out in 2016. Byte Night is one of the UK’s top 20 mass participation charity events and is the largest charity sleep-out event, having raised almost £10 million.

To mark our tenth anniversary in Scotland, we are launching a sleepout in Glasgow for the first time, so that more people can get involved in helping to tackle youth homelessness.

Since the first Byte Night Scotland in 2008, the event has raised valuable money to support projects across the country such as New Horizons in East Lothian, the Canal Project in East Dunbartonshire and Dundee Youth Housing.

Family breakdown, mental health issues and abuse in the home are just a few of the many causes that lead to young people becoming homeless. At these services and others like them across the country, Action for Children supports young people to a safe and happy future.

Before the sleepout starts, sleepers have a chance to have a hearty meal and to hear from some of the young people who have been supported by Action for Children services.

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A practical and personal example of the difference made by Action for Children and Byte Night can be found in Edinburgh. Tom had faced a lot of challenges in his young life, but had found a place at New Horizons, Action for Children’s residential centre in Haddington, East Lothian.

He attended the launch event for Byte Night Scotland in 2016 and spoke to participants about how he was turning his life around and the considerable part that Action for Children played in that. I met Tom that night and we spoke about his hopes for his future.

Just like all young people, Tom said that he just wanted an opportunity to build a future that would enable him to realise his ambitions. His enthusiasm and determination struck a chord with all of us, and we offered him a work placement to give him a chance to prove himself. It was a tough challenge for him from where he had started but he was so determined to succeed, listened to all the feedback he was given and came through the experience so well that he has now joined us as a permanent member of the team. None of that would have happened without Action for Children and Byte Night.

Unfortunately, there are thousands of young people who still need support – but you can play your part. If you are interested in taking part in this year’s Byte Night, as a sleeper or even as a volunteer on the night, please contact the Byte Night team at [email protected]. You can find out more about Byte Night at www.bytenight.org.uk

Rhona Hutchon is director at Harvey Nash Scotland, board member and co-chair of Byte Night Scotland