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Nominations open for humanitarians to walk in Rabbie's footsteps

 30 September 2015  |  

Courage, commitment, inspiration and hands-on humanitarian efforts are being sought as nominations open for a globally-respected, humanitarian accolade – the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award (RBHA).

The Robert Burns Humanitarian Award – launched in 2002 and supported by South Ayrshire Council and Scotland's Winter Festivals – recognises those who have saved, improved or enriched the lives of others or society as a whole, through personal self-sacrifice, selfless service or direct humanitarian work.

Named in honour of the famous Scots Bard, this much sought after award applauds the efforts of people who bring hope and inspiration – often in desperate situations – and help change lives for the better.

An advocate for social change and an inspiration for the founders of socialism and liberalism, Robert Burns was a man who viewed everyone as equal and genuinely lived as a true humanitarian.This is most commonly recognised in his famous lines: 'That Man to Man, the world o'er, Shall brothers be for a' that'.

Robert Burns Humanitarian Award nominees – who can be from any part of the world and be of any age or gender – must demonstrate one of more of the following:

  • A courageous deed involving personal self-sacrifice, going beyond the call of duty in the name of humanity.
  • A commitment to serving others and making a difference through humanitarian acts of selfless service.
  • A generosity of spirit and dedication helping improve the quality of life for people in need through the provision of shelter, food, clothing, education or meaningful employment.
  • Direct 'hands-on' participation in humanitarian works that directly benefit an individual/groups of individuals/community.
  • Outstanding involvement and dedication that makes a significant contribution to volunteer leadership or service which has improved or enriched the lives of others and the welfare of humanity and society as a whole.
  • An act of kindness done without expectation of reward that has resulted in recognition by members of a community/organisation.


Winners receive the equivalent of 1759 guineas (approximately £1,800) – a sum which signifies the year of the Bard's birth and the coinage then in circulation – as well as a specially commissioned award handcrafted in Scotland.

Councillor Bill McIntosh, Chair of the RBHA judging panel, said: "In the current global climate, it's painfully obvious that we don't all enjoy the same choices, freedoms and opportunities. The Robert Burns Humanitarian Award is all about looking for the people who refuse to tolerate this, stand up and do something about it and push the boundaries for social change.

"It doesn't even have to be someone you know – it could be someone you know of or have heard about and that you know is doing some terrific work to make a difference for people in difficult and unimaginable situations.

"As our past finalists and winners show, nominees need to reflect Burns' passion and determination for human rights and we know there's lots of that on show every day, in every corner of the globe. Let's give these people something back – nominate them for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award 2016."

The winner of the RBHA 2015 was Olivia Giles – a lawyer from Edinburgh who became a quadruple amputee after contracting meningococcal septicaemia in 2002. After recovering, she made a conscious decision to do something more than just develop a 'nice career'. In 2007, she founded the charity 500 Miles, which supplies prosthetic limbs to developing countries. Through her work, she has helped hundreds of amputees regain some form of independence. 

Nominations for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award 2016 can be made online at until Monday 16 November 2015. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in January 2016, to coincide with the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns.


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