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Robert Burns Humanitarian Award (RBHA)

Posted by: Communications on 22 February 2023 10:19

Did you know that South Ayrshire Council host the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award each year? Find out who this year's winner is and more about the award below.

As Scotland's National Bard, Robert Burns is celebrated as a pioneer of his generation, with his dynamic vision inspiring the founders of socialism and liberalism.

The humanitarian values he embraced in his short life are captured for eternity in his rousing world-famous works, which are now his legacy. Burns' work continues to inspire people from all walks of life and in all corners of the globe.

Burns is one of Scotland's favourite icons, encapsulating the very essence that makes Scots Scottish. In one of his poems, Man was made to Mourn: A Dirge, he speaks of how "man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn". You can also get a historical grasp of his values in the poem below:

"O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!"

-       "To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Church" by Robert Burns

The Robert Burns Humanitarian Award (RBHA) is supported by South Ayrshire Council and Destination South Ayrshire. Since its formation in 2002, the award has recognised the dedication, celebrated the selflessness and paid tribute to the sacrifice of each recipient of the award - all exceptional people with incredible stories to tell.

Every autumn, people are invited worldwide to nominate someone they feel is deserving of the award. Nominees are then viewed by the judging panel, who then run all nominees through a point-scoring system to avoid any bias or favouritism. Three finalists are then agreed upon and notified.

The ceremony has been held online over the last few years due to COVID-19 restrictions. Previously, the event was held in Burns Cottage itself, which is found in Alloway, South Ayrshire. Moving to streaming it online has allowed our audience to grow substantially, given the cottage has a capacity of only 32.

This year's event was hosted by Kenny Boyle from The Gaiety Theatre, Ayr, and can be viewed in its entirety here.

About This Year's Winner

Dr Renuka Ramakrishnan won the prestigious award last month during a special online ceremony which took place on 25 January 2023 to celebrate Burns Night.

Dr Ramakrishnan is a consultant dermatologist and cosmetologist who has specialised in the treatment of Hansen's Disease (leprosy) for the past 30 years.

Based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, she is fondly known as 'Doctor Amma' and has been recognised for her work in the treatment of leprosy on many occasions.

As well as a doctor, she acts as counsellor, mentor, motivational speaker, and educator. She is also a campaigner against breast cancer and crimes against women, children, and the transgender community.

Dr Ramakrishnan has already helped 10,000 leprosy patients receive free consultations and treatment and assisted a total of 250,000 patients through more than 1,500 free medical camps.

Dr Ramakrishnan said: "I am very much elated to know that I am one among the three finalists in the Robert Burns Humanitarian Awards 2023. I stood against all odds at the age of 16 and took it upon myself as a humanitarian duty to make a promise that I would become a doctor to serve these leprosy patients."

Also recognised at the award ceremony were fellow finalists John Flanagan and Hansel Foundation.

Dr Ramakrishnan is the 22nd winner of RBHA. Since the award began in 2002, humanitarians across the globe have been recognised. Finalists have included charity founders, civil rights lawyers and even an archbishop.

2020 winner Dr Josh Littlejohn MBE 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.

2004 winner Clive Stafford Smith is a British-born lawyer who specialises in civil rights and the death penalty in the USA. Awarded the OBE in 2000 for 'humanitarian services in the legal field', he returned to live in the UK in 2004, taking up the post of Legal Director of the UK branch of the human rights not-for-profit charity Reprieve which he founded.

2005 winner His Grace the Most Reverend Dr Pius Ncube served as the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, until 2007. He has long been a gallant advocate for human rights in his home country, being an outspoken critic of President Robert Mugabe, demanding that his government address increasing food and economic crises, and put an end to widespread torture and rape.

You can view the full list of previous winners here.

The RBHA is an annual online event which takes place in January. It is supported by South Ayrshire Council and The National Trust. Applications for 2024 RBHA will start in Autumn 2023.

You can read more about RBHA at:

You can find out more about Destination South Ayrshire at:

You can learn more about Robert Burns Birthplace Museum at

Last modified: 20 March 2024 11:10