Social Bite co-founder wins Burns Humanitarian Award

Josh Littlejohn wins the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award 2020
Josh Littlejohn wins the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award 2020

A young entrepreneur who’s helping homeless people across the globe has won a top award in honour of Scotland’s most famous bard.

Dr Josh Littlejohn MBE won the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award 2020 at a special ceremony in Burns cottage on Wednesday night (22 January).

Part of the annual Burns an’ a’ that! Festival celebrations, the RBHA is supported by South Ayrshire Council and Scotland’s Winter Festivals.

Josh is the co-founder of Social Bite, a chain of sandwich - coffee shops which give 100 percent of their profits to good causes. Each year, the shops give more than one hundred and forty thousand items of free healthy food to vulnerable people.

Since 2015, Josh’s Social Bite Fund has been helping to eradicate homelessness across Scotland and beyond. Promotion of the fund led to the ‘CEO Sleep Out’ in Edinburgh which in turn led to ‘Sleep in the Park’ with 8,000 people sleeping out to raise £4 million to help the homeless.

In December 2019 ‘The World’s Big Sleep Out’ took place with sixty thousand people participating in 50 cities across the world.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Josh also set up the Social Bite Academy. This gives homeless people the chance to get back on their feet through volunteering and work experience. He also founded Brewgooder, a craft beer that donates 100% of its profits to clean water projects.

Josh received an MBE in the 2016 New Year’s Honours List for services to social enterprise and entrepreneurship and the following year he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Edinburgh University.

On receiving the RBHA, Josh said: “I was very humbled to even be nominated for this award, especially amongst such esteemed company as Dr Izzeldein Abuelaishi, David Hayman and Patrick Rolink. To win the award in the name of our great national poet Robert Burns, whose humanitarian spirit was immortally captured in his poetry, is a real honour. I would like to dedicate the award to the hundreds of homeless people I have met in Scotland and all over the world, who inspire me to keep fighting to make a difference where I can.”

Chair of the RBHA judging panel and Leader of South Ayrshire Council, Councillor Douglas Campbell said: “Josh has the drive, determination and the talent to achieve almost anything in life but has chosen to use his considerable skills to help others.

“Not content with just tackling homelessness in Scotland, Josh has now taken his message to a global audience with some amazing results.

“Despite his hectic schedule, Josh makes time for everyone, he’s an inspiration and a true humanitarian and I know he will continue to transform lives for the better. I would like to wish Josh and the other finalists all the best for the future.

Also recognised at the award ceremony were fellow finalists Dr Izzeldein Abuelaish, David Hayman and his colleague Patrick Rolink.

Dr Izzeldein Abuelaish is a Palestinian medical doctor who has spent years promoting Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, despite Israeli forces killing his three daughters and their cousin.

Scottish actor David Hayman and comedian Patrick Rolink run Spirit Aid, a humanitarian relief organisation, dedicated to alleviating the suffering of children and young people.

As well as the RBHA 2020 title, Josh receives the equivalent of 1759 guineas (approximately £1,800) – a sum which signifies the year of the Bard’s birth and the coinage in circulation at that time.