Who will follow in the footsteps of the Indiana Jones of surgeons?

The 2016 winner was David Nott, a life-saving British doctor known as the Indiana Jones of surgery.
The 2016 winner was David Nott, a life-saving British doctor known as the Indiana Jones of surgery.

A global search is on for humanitarians who bring hope and inspiration and transform lives – at home or abroad – as nominations open for an award created in honour of the man considered to be the greatest Scot ever, Robert Burns.

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’.

The much sought-after Robert Burns Humanitarian Award – supported by South Ayrshire Council and Scotland’s Winter Festivals as part of the Alloway 1759 celebrations – recognises courage, commitment, inspiration and hands-on humanitarian efforts from people of any nationality, race, age or gender.

Organisers are now seeking nominations to help recognise 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.

As well as the RBHA 2017 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.

The 2016 winner was David Nott – a life-saving British doctor known as the ‘Indiana Jones of surgery’, who literally had to dodge bombs and stare down the barrel of a gun while he worked to save lives.

David Nott, a Consultant Surgeon at Royal Marsden, St Mary’s and Chelsea and Westminster Hospitals – has given up several months every year for more than two decades to volunteer with Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Committee of the Red Cross in war zones and amidst major humanitarian crises.

His efforts have seen him performing life-saving surgery in areas such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Syria – and in some of the most desperate conditions.

David’s first posting took him to the state hospital in Bosnia, which was known as ‘the Swiss cheese’ because it was pockmarked with bullet holes, and that was to shape his experience for many years to come.

David has now taken his skills and experience and established the David Nott Foundation – a UK registered charity that provides surgeons and medical professionals with the skills they need to provide relief and assistance in conflict and natural disaster zones around the world.

Bill McIntosh, Chair of the RBHA judging panel, said: “Robert Burns was a person who viewed everyone as equal and genuinely lived as a true humanitarian and we’re looking for people who live up to his ethos. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ description for what makes someone a humanitarian – and a potential Robert Burns Humanitarian Award nominee.

“However, the one thing our nominees always have in common is a passion and commitment to human rights and a determination to ensure that they push the boundaries for social change to make a difference for others.

“Nominees don’t have to be someone you know – it could be someone you’ve seen in the media or have heard about in other ways and that you know is doing some terrific work to make a difference for people in difficult and unimaginable situations.

“And while they won’t be looking for any recognition, it’s important that we applaud and celebrate their efforts to change the lives of others, so please get nominating now.”

View the three 2016 finalists’ stories at http://www.south-ayrshire.gov.uk/burnsaward/finalists.aspx.

Nominations for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award 2017 can be made online at www.robertburnsaward.com until 4pm on Monday 14 November 2016. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in January 2016, to coincide with the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns.

In 2014 a Scottish charity worker has become the first person from Ayrshire to pick up the award.

Blanche Nicolson – from the charity Hansel – was selected as that year’s award winner for her tireless efforts to continue the humanitarian work that her parents started over 50 years ago.

Blanche’s sister Lindy was born with Down’s Syndrome and, concerned for her future, her parents, Isobel and Tom Murdoch, founded the charity Hansel, which provides services and support to people living with learning disabilities.

For 50 years, Blanche has been at the heart of that support, working tirelessly to make a positive difference for people with learning disabilities and to make sure they enjoy the same opportunities as anyone else.

Thanks to Blanche’s passion and belief that everyone is equal, and an understanding that it is necessary at times to fight prejudice, she has worked above and beyond her day job to make sure people get the most benefit from Hansel and the services it offers – whether through community living options, education, employment, residential services, respite and leisure and social opportunities. Blanche has also led the way in the social care sector, working in partnership with local Councils, social work departments, health boards, employers, schools and the people of Ayrshire, changing perceptions about what it means to live with a learning disability and showcasing how full and active a part in society people with disabilities can play.