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Mary's Meals founder, Nigerian lawyer and 'Indiana Jones of surgery' finalists for Burns Award 2016

 18 January 2016  |  

Magnus, Zannah and David are this year's finalists

Magnus, Zannah and David are this year's finalists

As the country gears up to celebrate Burns' Night on 25 January – the 237th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns – Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, Zannah Bukar Mustapha and David Nott have all been shortlisted as finalists for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award 2016.

The founder of Mary's Meals, which feeds one million children every day; a lawyer who established a free school for children from both sides of the Boko Haram conflict in Nigeria; and a life-saving British doctor known as the 'Indiana Jones of surgery' are all in the running this week for a prestigious award named in honour of the Scots Bard.

The Robert Burns Humanitarian Award – or RBHA – is a globally-respected, humanitarian accolade supported by South Ayrshire Council and Scotland's Winter Festivals, with sponsorship from Burns Crystal and The Herald, Sunday Herald and

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

It takes its inspiration from Robert Burns who viewed everyone as equal and genuinely lived as a true humanitarian, as recognised in his famous lines: 'That Man to Man, the world o'er, Shall brothers be for a' that'.

Magnus, Zannah and David were selected by judges as this year's finalists in recognition of the incredible and inspirational work they do every day, and the difference they make to others:

  • Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow's humanitarian efforts started more than 20 years ago with an appeal for food, clothing and medicines for those affected by the Balkan conflict. He went on to establish Scottish International Relief, which delivered more than £10 million worth of aid in its first 10 years. In Malawi in 2002, Magnus was inspired to launch Mary's Meals after meeting teenager Edward who said all he hoped for in life was: 'I want to have enough food to eat and go to school one day'. Mary's Meals now feeds more than one million school children in 12 countries every day.

Magnus said: "When we began this work, we wanted to bring hope to people suffering desperate situations and help them to change their lives for the better. Now there is a global movement of people, all working towards the same goal – that every child receives one daily meal in their place of education.

"It's wonderful for Mary's Meals to receive this recognition as a finalist for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award, and in turn I'd like to recognise the many wonderful people who contribute to this work, giving their skills, time, donations, and prayers to allow us to continue reaching out to the next hungry child."

  • Zannah Bukar Mustapha is a lawyer who works to make lives better for children and young people affected by the conflict between Boko Haram – an Islamic extremist group – and government forces in Nigeria. Having spent many years working to counter the growing radicalisation of children and young people, and concerned at the closure of state schools, he founded the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation – a primary school for orphans and less privileged children from both sides of the conflict. Zannah's school provides free meals, free education, uniforms and health care, with the aim of achieving a lasting peace in the future.

Zannah said: "I am exceedingly happy and deeply touched at being selected for such prestigious award. I have never thought that a little effort in faraway Nigeria could be measured up to an icon whose work in promoting human dignity is long-standing. Robert Burns was a colossus in the literary world and beyond in fighting for equality. As he said: 'O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us, To see oursels as others see us'."

  • David Nott has spent more than two decades working in danger zones around the world, battling every day to save others from death and serious injury. He has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to his profession's ideals, while making significant personal sacrifices. His efforts to provide a first-class medical service in often dire and dangerous conditions have earned him the nickname, the 'Indiana Jones of surgery'. And he's made sure people can continue to receive the medical help and support they need – even after he's moved on – by establishing a training programme for other doctors and health professionals, creating a lasting legacy.

David said: "I am very honoured to be considered for this wonderful award. Like many other people, I just really, really want to help and by doing this, it's my chance to say to people 'we haven't forgotten about you'."

Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council and Chair of the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award, said: "Robert Burns was a man who viewed everyone as equal and genuinely lived as a true humanitarian – someone devoted to the promotion of human welfare and to social reforms.

"Magnus, Zannah and David are outstanding examples of people who continue to do that day in and day out, and they are a real inspiration not just to those who see them in action – but to people the world over. They are very worthy finalists and I wish them all the best of luck for the ceremony later this week."

The winner of the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award 2016 will be announced at the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award Celebration Concert at the Brig O'Doon Hotel in Alloway – the birthplace of Burns – on Thursday 21 January.

Tickets for the concert, which features performances from Roddy Hart and the Lonesome Fire, and Eilidh Grant, with Neil Sturgeon on guitar are available at or by calling 01292 288235.

Further information about the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award is available at