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Robert Burns Humanitarian Award 2024 - finalists announced

RBHA 2024 Finalists 400 x 400

A community campaigner, and an ex-nurse who's helping people of all ages, are in the running for this year's Robert Burns Humanitarian Award (RBHA).

The RBHA, supported by South Ayrshire Council's Destination South Ayrshire service, recognises courage, commitment, inspiration, and hands-on humanitarian efforts and is open to all.

With Burns night fast approaching, Gail Penfold and Annie McLaughlan have been shortlisted as finalists for the RBHA 2024.

Gail Penfold lives in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, and has been an avid volunteer, fundraiser, and campaigner in the community for nearly 50 years.

As well as the Founding Chair of Walthamstow Stadium Area Residents/Community Association and organising free community events, she provides benefit, debt management, budgeting assistance & essential items to those in need countrywide. 

She has supported people with mental health issues since she was a teenager and organises 'silent' funfairs for autistic children who can't cope with loud noises and crowds. Gail also set up the first GP led gardening welfare group in her borough - these groups have now expanded across London.

Gail said: "I just try to give a little joy and make things a little easier for others where I can.  I am truly humbled to be chosen as a finalist for this prestigious international award."

Annie McLaughlan was born in the Vineburgh area of Irvine, North Ayrshire, and has spent her whole life working on community projects.

Annie who is a retired nurse, ensures the elderly have access to warm social spaces where they can enjoy nutritious and affordable meals.

She is Chairperson of the Vineburgh Community Association which she helped found in 2005. The association operate a drop-in cafe where anyone can access meals for £1, the association also run a foodbank, and host a number of support groups and classes.

Annie, who is fondly known as the 'Roadrunner' as she is always on the go also supported Vineburgh Boxing Club and was the club treasurer. She also fundraises so that local children have annual trips away.

Annie said: "I am somewhat shocked and surprised to learn that I have not only been nominated but to be told I'm in the final is so overwhelming. I am so grateful that I have been selected and honoured that I have got to the final stage. I believe every one of the nominees would be a well deserving winner and would like to take this opportunity to wish them the very best and well done everyone."

Martin Dowey, Chair of the RBHA judging panel, and Leader of South Ayrshire Council, said: "This time round, we have two inspirational finalists. They have devoted themselves to the care of others and truly embody the spirit of the RBHA. I am looking forward to the end of January when the winner will be announced."

The winner of the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award will be announced via an online ceremony on Thursday 25 January 2024.

As well as the RBHA 2024 title, winners receive 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.