A young boy working to honour the memory of his brother, a campaigner who has championed support for victims of sexual abuse, and a woman who has transformed thousands of lives in India are all in the running for this year's Robert Burns Humanitarian Award. The winner will be announced at Burns Cottage on Wednesday (24 January).
Part of the annual Alloway 1759 celebrations, the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award – supported by South Ayrshire Council and Scotland's Winter Festivals – recognises courage, commitment, inspiration and hands-on humanitarian efforts from people of any nationality, race, age or gender.
As the country gears up to celebrate Burns' Night – the 259th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns – Sandra Brown OBE, Anna Ferrer, and Mason Kidd, have all been shortlisted as finalists for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award 2018.
The trio were hand-picked from nominations received from around the world for people 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.
Sandra Brown OBE, originally from Coatbridge, was eight when her neighbour, 11-year-old Moira Anderson, went missing in 1957. 27 years later, Sandra's estranged father admitted to being involved in Moira Anderson's abduction. She discovered that her father (who died in 2006) was a convicted child molester and founded The Moira Anderson Foundation (MAF) in 2000 as a legacy to Moira Anderson and her family. As a recognised expert in her field, Sandra was a founding member of the Cross-Party Group for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse at the Scottish Parliament. By 2015, her charity MAF had supported 2,000 families and individuals, having raised the profile of a sensitive issue many years before others felt empowered enough to make a stand.
Sandra said: "I am thrilled to be a finalist for the RBHA, as it's an international honour recognising those tackling some very hard global issues. While it is a personal award, it's also a tribute to the fantastic team behind me at the charity I set up to deal with child sexual abuse. It is a widespread problem that causes more pain and misery in people's lives than we can ever imagine. It really is the Everest of childhood trauma, with lifelong effects. Individuals, however, can make a difference by speaking out then spreading the word. Change can happen. There are parallels with scourges like polio which as a disease has been reduced, then almost eradicated. My vision is that future generations hear about abuse purely as history."
Anna Ferrer was born in Essex and has worked in India since the mid-1960s. She set up the Rural Development Trust (RDT) with her husband, Vicente Ferrer, with a particular focus on women's rights. RDT now impacts the lives of 3.6 million people in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Since 1969, RDT has been responsible for establishing four major hospitals, six rural clinics, two mobile clinics and other special-care centres that administer treatment for basic to advanced ailments and infectious diseases. RDT is also responsible for campaigning for the right for children to attend school, launching its own supplementary schools, for which they later transferred the management to community development committees.
Anna said: "I feel extremely happy about being one the three finalists of the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award. This is a respected and renowned award given after a great poet who was socially very progressive. At a personal level, I feel very moved because it is the first time I have received such recognition in my native country. Over the last 50 years – since we established RDT – we have worked very hard to alleviate poverty and strengthen communities so they can claim their rights. There is a lot of good in the world. During the course of my life I have been able to witness that when we are really determined to achieve something, anything is possible – we are all here to help."
Mason Kidd. The 12 year old from Cumnock, Ayrshire, carried out 18 'acts of kindness' last year in memory of his brother who died of cancer at the age of two. Mason's brother Ross would have been 18 on 1 December 2017. Since March 2017, Mason, who has autism, has taken pizzas to the local fire station, treated his local police officers to doughnuts, left tennis balls in the park in Cumnock for dog walkers and their pets, and bought teddies for the babies at Ayrshire Maternity Neonatal Unit (Mason was born 10 weeks premature and spent 14 weeks in the unit). Mason's 18th act of kindness was to raise as much money as he could in November for Glasgow Children's Hospital Charity – he raised £10,000 during that month, presenting the money to the hospital charity on 1 December, Ross's birthday.
Mason said he was overwhelmed at the recognition: "I was so excited and honoured to be nominated for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award. And now to find out I'm one of three finalists is incredible. I hope to be able to make more people smile hearing about my Kidd Kindness Project. While doing my project I've been able learn more about amazing people who do amazing things like people who have previously been finalists for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award and I just can't believe I'm among these astonishing folk."
Mason's parents, Alyson and Gary Kidd said they were proud of their son: "We're thrilled to find out Mason is a finalist for such an incredible award. Mason has worked so so hard throughout his Kidd Kindness Project and shown maturity, commitment and a real sense of community in making people smile. We watched on with pride as he touched so many people and marvelled at the pure joy he got from making so many different people, from all walks of life, happy with his acts of kindness. To see what Mason, at only 12 years of age, has done throughout his acts of kindness is wonderful for us, and because of social media, documenting these incredible acts, the word has spread and the happiness his project produced has made its way across the globe helping to bring more people that "Kidd Kindness Smile" as they follow his journey. Words cannot express how proud the whole family and local community are of him."
Douglas Campbell, Chair of the RBHA judging panel and Leader of South Ayrshire Council, said: "We received nominations from around the world for this year's awards and it's plain to see that our three finalists have all made a real difference to their respective communities.
"Given the quality of the candidates, judging the nominations was no easy task, but we've now settled on a shortlist which is both true to the legacy of Burns himself and to the intended spirit of this prestigious award.
"This year's ceremony goes back to where it all began and I'm looking forward to the winner being announced at Burns Cottage in just a couple of days' time."
The winner of the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award will be announced at the awards ceremony on Wednesday 24 January 2018, at Burns Cottage.
As well as the RBHA 2018 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 then in circulation.