Kirkcaldy businessman bids to help 50 charities

A Kirkcaldy businessman has launched an audacious plan to try to help 50 charities in 50 countries by spending the night sleeping homeless in Edinburgh.

Derek Cowan arrives at St Andrew's Bus Station to spend the night sleeping rough

Derek Cowan, the owner of ‘Get It Done Cleaning’ was inspired to come up with the plan following a recent trip to South Asia, where he volunteered with social enterprises and offered his expertise.

His first port of call was the capital, where his aim was to find out how much help was on offer from charities to those sleeping homeless.

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He was offered beds, though turned them down, and described sleeping rough in Edinburgh as “difficult” and admits that he was terrified.

Derek spent some time sleeping in this Edinburgh crypt

“It was an eye-opening experience,” he said.

“I spent 24 hours as a homeless person, with no money in my pocket, to research which charities, if any, are helping our capital’s homeless.

“I found places that would give me something to eat - all charities – but when I was looking for somewhere to sleep, I found all the little parks and grassy squares get locked up for the night.

“I don’t understand why, when there are insufficient hostel spaces for all Edinburgh’s homeless, the council sees fit to lock people out of St Andrew’s Square.”

Derek said that eight months in South Asia, which gave him the spark for the 50 charities plan, was a learning experience.

“Touring these countries and meeting people doing so much good with so little showed me what is possible.”

Inspired by what he saw, and having built up a following of companies interested in sponsoring other charities, Derek has now decided to embark on his ambitious ‘Entrepreneur on a Journey’ plan.

“My next plan is to tour the world, visit 50 charities in 50 countries and make a lasting difference at each one.”

“Before anyone challenges me that charity begins at home, I’ve started here, in Edinburgh.”

Derek founded Get It Done Cleaning seven years ago and was acknowledged last year by the Living Wage Foundation as a trailblazer in introducing the living wage in the cleaning sector.

He said that although the business was delivering a “comfortable living”, he has recently stepped back from day-to-day running to concentrate on his philanthropic ventures.

50 charities in 50 countries is now compiling a list of interested sponsors, which will be matched to appropriate charities on Derek’s travels.

He also plans to broadcast live from each country on Periscope and hopes to visit all 50 countries over the next two years.

Companies interested in sponsoring a charity, or anyone wishing to find out more about Derek, or to offer support, should visit