Charity worker ‘surprised and humbled’ by British Empire Medal

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A former Netherlee Primary School pupil has been awarded a BEM in the New Year’s honours list for his charity work in Budapest.

Douglas Arnott (43), who also attended Williamwood High School, works for The Robert Burns International Foundation (RBIF), a Hungarian-registered charity set up to help sick and underprivileged children in Hungary and around Central and Eastern Europe.

Douglas said he was surprised by his BEM.

He said: “I knew nothing about it until a few weeks before the announcement, but a surprise is probably an understatement.

“Humbling is probably the word I would use, it’s obviously not the reason I do what I do, but the fact the work has been recognised and appreciated by many others is nice to see.

“The recognition is a reflection I think of the good charity work done by many people within our organisation.”

Douglas visited Budapest in 1993, with a group of friends from Netherlee as they travelled through to a town in Transylvania to teach English for a month via a link set up by Netherlee Church.

After graduating with a degree in translation and interpreting from Heriot-Watt University he moved to the Hungarian capital permanently in 1998.

There he met his wife and his three children, dual citizens, were all born there.

Douglas became involved in RBIF back in 2012.

He explained: “I became involved initially leading a project to buy a specially equipped minibus for the Hungarian Junior Paralympic team in collaboration with the British Embassy in Budapest and coinciding with the 2012 Olympics in London, to help the Hungarian Paralympic Association transport their athletes to and from training sessions and competitions.

“Within a few years I took over the running of the RBIF and have overseen a period of growth both in terms of our Annual Burns Supper, now held for around 350 people every year in Budapest and which is one of the largest and longest-running charity events in the country, and with regard to the funds raised and the number of projects supported.

“In 2018 we raised in the region of £40,000, and used this to support six worthy projects across the country, buying important equipment for paediatric and neonatal departments at five different hospitals, as well as helping to renovate a nursery in a poor district of Budapest, following a similar project near the Slovak border in the previous year.

“Our honorary patrons are the UK’s Ambassador to Hungary, currently HMA Iain Lindsay, a fellow Scot, and Hungary’s Ambassador to the UK. Our Honorary President is Sir Alex Ferguson.”

Aside from his charity work, Douglas owns and runs a translation agency in Budapest called EDMF Language Services.

“Organising our projects and events every year involves a lot of meetings and coordination, with Hungarian and UK companies on the one hand, as sponsors, and Hungarian hospitals and children’s projects on the other.” he continued.

“So my role is to facilitate the fundraising and forge links between the two countries in this way.

“We have strong links with the British Embassy in Budapest, with the Deputy Head of Mission, currently Caitlin Jones, sitting on the RBIF’s six-member curatorium, the executive committee of the foundation.

“There is a particularly strong and active Scottish community in Budapest as well, which was seen most spectacularly recently when Budapest’s famous Chain Bridge, one of the longest bridges in the world when it was built and designed by none other than Scottish engineer Adam Clark, was lit up in blue for St Andrews Day at the end of November 2018.”