ALLOWAY, Scotland — “O my love’s like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June,” ponders Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns. These famous lines reflect upon the refreshing nature love and compassion give to life. And this literary lesson is most certainly understood by Scottish humanitarian Blanche Nicolson.
Blanche Nicolson was named the winner of the 2014 Robert Burns Humanitarian Award on January 25. The award is presented annually on the birthday of Robert Burns to celebrate those who show “selflessness and dedication in a bid to save, enrich, or improve the lives of others” according to the award’s committee.
Nicolson won the award for her dedication to helping improve the lives of people with learning disabilities through the Hansel Foundation. Hansel was founded 50 years ago by Nicolson’s parents to help provide services for their daughter Lindy, who has Down’s Syndrome. Since that time, Hansel has expanded to a national resource for people with pervasive developmental disabilities throughout the United Kingdom.
Services offered by Hansel include Work Choice, a nationally funded program that provides inclusive work training and fair wages for those with learning disabilities as a way of preparing for outside employment. Another Hansel service is the Foundation’s “Short Breaks.” Short Break is a holiday travel service that tailors special vacations for people with learning disabilities.
Hansel and Blanche Nicolson are a shining example of the support that must be given to people with learning disabilities. Much more work must be done throughout the world to assure equality and opportunity for all special needs individuals. As shown at the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, equal access for special needs people is an essential part of global development. To once again quote Robert Burns, “That Man to Man, the world o’er, Shall brothers be for all that.”