New year's honour for Preston problem-solving volunteer
A Preston man handed a British Empire Medal in the new year's honours listÂ says he owes some of his success in the voluntary sector to the boss who spotted his potential for problem-solving when he was 'a junior tea-maker' at what was then the Midland Bank.
In spite of his eventual rise to area manager, Woodplumpton resident Ian Higginbotham still found time to put his skills to good use for the benefit others - both at home and abroad.
“I often go in and help set something up or sort something out - and then move onto the next project,” Ian explains. “But I have never done anything at a board level which I haven’t been willing to volunteer for on the ground.”
It is a guiding principle which has seen him travel the world for the good causes which he supports. But for Ian, charity really does begin at home - and he often takes to Preston city centre to work as a street pastor for the local branch of the movement which he established in the area more than a decade ago.
“There has been many a cold, wet evening when I would rather not have gone out. But I have never come back and felt that it hadn’t been worth it,” says Ian of the scheme which helps the homeless and rescues revellers from risky situations.
Locally, Ian has also done work for St. John Ambulance and Victim Support, but his main focus is currently on building up health services in the Kibogora region of Rwanda. The partnership which Ian chairs has enabled the establishment of a 280-bed hospital and raised the standard of living in the rural area, but maternity services remain oversubscribed.
"Nobody aspired to work in Kibogora - we opened a polytechnic to train local people in nursing and midwifery.
"Now, the hospital treats 30,000 people a year, twelve health clinics feed into it and it's part of a nascent NHS in the country.
“But we need to raise Â£1.3m to create more beds for new mothers and their babies, as some women are currently top and tailing because of a shortage of space. I would appeal for anybody wanting to donate to visit kibogora.org."
Ian also has an interest in education, previously chairing the board of the Archdiocese of Blackburn's multi-academy trust and currently acting as a governor of Myerscough College.
He adds that he will be accepting his honour for services to the community on behalf of his “long-suffering” wife, Val - and the teams he has worked with on all the projects in which he has been involved.
“Almost everything I have ever done has been in teams. While I’m honoured to have been singled out, I have worked with people who contributed just as much as I have.”