Ayrshire first for 2014 Burns award

Mike Jackson
Mike Jackson

For the first time ever, two Ayrshire nominees have reached the finals of a prestigious global humanitarian award, named after Ayrshire’s most famous son – the Scots Bard, Robert Burns.

Blanche Nicolson from the charity Hansel and mental health nurse Rab Wilson are the first Ayrshire-based nominees to be shortlisted for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award (RBHA), which is supported by South Ayrshire Council and Event Scotland.

They are joined on the shortlist by Mick Jackson, founder of a charity that works to change lives across the world.

Mick Jackson

Mick is the founder and chairman of the WildHearts Foundation, a charity committed to compassionate commerce; empowering the world’s poorest people (especially women) through microfinance and using entrepreneurship training in the UK to transform the future of our young people and the wider economy.

He was inspired to do so after saving the life of his dying Kashmiri guide during a climbing expedition on K2. Mick also created and runs Micro-Tyco within the UK, which gives participants the chance to turn a £1 micro-loan into as much money as possible in just one month.

Mick’s overall aim is to tackle economic injustice both at home and abroad

Blanche Nicolson

Blanche is Practice Development Director at the charity Hansel, which supports people living with learning and physical disabilities.

She is continuing the humanitarian work started by her parents who founded Hansel 50 years ago because Blanche’s sister Lindy had learning difficulties and they were keen to change the way disabled people were viewed and treated. Blanche‘s ethos is that everyone is equal and she works tirelessly to achieve this. She has been instrumental in enabling people with learning difficulties to live within their own homes in the community and leads the way in the social care sector to help change thousands of lives.

Rab Wilson

Rab is a mental health nurse from Ayrshire who has been instrumental in the formation of a national whistleblowers alert line for NHS workers and a new national framework for managing critical incidents within the NHS.

He has also lodged a petition to ban the use of confidentiality clauses in the NHS, which may prevent transparency regarding issues of patient care or unethical employment-related issues.

Rab’s involvement with the Accountability Scotland and Patients First groups has seen him reach out to empower other NHS workers to speak out on patient safety, ensuring their voices can be heard.

All of the finalists were delighted to hear of their nomination and shortlisting.

Mick Jackson said: “Growing up in Scotland, I learnt fundamental values – that our shared humanity meant it was our duty to look after one another and that money did not make a person superior.

“As an adult I learnt that those values are fundamental to the Scots’ Psyche, values expressed so exquisitely by Robert Burns.

“WildHearts is the business embodiment of those values. Therefore it is a deep honour to have been shortlisted for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award.”

Blanche Nicolson said: “I am overwhelmed to be considered worthy of nomination for this award.

“All people should decide how they lead their lives. I have been privileged throughout my life to walk closely with many amazing people with learning difficulties, and their families, during a period of extraordinary change and opportunity.

“It is only through their success that I can be measured in any way.”

Rab Wilson said: “I was extremely proud to learn that I had been chosen as one of the three nominees for the RBHA.

“This will help give a massive boost to the campaigning work I am doing with regards to the NHS, working along with other good people in Accountability Scotland and Patients First.

“As a working poet, who predominantly writes in Scots, and a lifelong fan, performer and student of Robert Burns’ works, this honour is doubly welcome to me.

“Burns was an utterly fearless campaigner for social justice. In my own long correspondence and battle for the truth, I often would quote from Burns’ work; a favourite line was ‘There’s nane ever fear’d that the truth should be heard, But they whom the truth would indite.’ As true today as when it was fresh on the page more than two hundred years ago!”

The Robert Burns Humanitarian Award recognises a group or individual who has saved, improved or enriched the lives of others or society as a whole, through personal self-sacrifice, selfless service or ‘hands-on’ charitable work. Winners receive the equivalent of 1759 guineas – a sum which signifies the year of the Bard’s birth and the coinage then in circulation – as well as a specially commissioned award handcrafted in Scotland.

A total of 30 individual nominations were received for the 2014 Robert Burns Humanitarian Award, with Mick, Blanche and Rab selected as finalists by the RBHA Judging Panel, which is chaired by Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council. Also on the panel are Jane Brown, President of the Robert Burns World Federation; actor, writer and painter John Cairney; Nat Edwards, Director of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum; former RBHA winners Habib Malik and Guy Willoughby; and STV Chief Executive Rob Woodward.

Councillor McIntosh said: “Once again, we have three very worthy finalists in the running for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award, and our shortlist shows just how wide and varied humanitarian works and efforts can be. I am particularly pleased to see two Ayrshire nominees among our final three – it’s touching and rewarding to know that Rabbie’s ethos and values live on here at home as well as further afield.

“The one thing all our finalists have in common is that they put others first and are committed to changing lives, which is truly humbling. My sincere congratulations to Mick, Blanche and Rab and I wish them all the best of luck for the awards ceremony on the Bard’s birthday.”

Paul Bush OBE, Chief Operating Officer for EventScotland, added: “The Burns Humanitarian Award is a wonderful celebration of individuals who do a tremendous amount of work, which often goes unrecognised. Each of this year’s finalists has shown an incredible will to do something good within their communities and it is interesting to see two finalists from Burns’ own Ayrshire. EventScotland are delighted to once be part of this celebration of their achievements and we will all look forward to the final ceremony early next year.”

Further information on the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award can be found at www.robertburnsaward.com.

The Robert Burns Humanitarian Award takes place during the annual Alloway 1759 Festival, which is a unique commemoration of the birthplace, life and works of Robert Burns.

Celebrating its sixth anniversary in 2014, Alloway 1759 offers an impressive line-up of well-known names as well as some brand-new events. With lots of fun, free events and popular paid-for productions, Alloway 1759 has something for everyone. Full details available at www.alloway1759.com.