A blind pensioner has been voted the most inspirational female in Milton Keynes for her “outstanding” contribution to the community.
Padma Cheriyan was given a standing ovation when she was presented with the highest accolade at the MK Women Leaders awards.
“I was so surprised that I couldn’t talk!” she said.
The Bletchley 77-year-old lost her sight 21 years ago due to macular degeneration and cataracts.
Able to see only the dimmest outlines, she was forced to leave her job.
But her fighting spirit means she now works harder than ever before – as a campaigner fighting to improve conditions for visually impaired people all over MK.
“ I used to be paid to work from 9am to 5pm. Now I’m a volunteer, my hours are 5am to 9pm!” she joked.
“But I enjoy every minute of it and it’s good to think somebody like me can make a difference.”
The differences that Padma has made are huge.
It is thanks to her tireless campaigning that centre:mk is now installing a beacon system so visually impaired shoppers know what shop they are entering.
“I got sick of going into shoe shops to buy a greetings card. Something had to be done,” said Padma, who is community coordinator for the RNIB.
She has fought for audio announcements on buses, zebra crossings in danger areas and lobbied the government to ban pavement parking.
Padma was selected from than 70 “inspirational” women nominees for the award.
A new Unsung Hero award was presented to John Cove, chief executive of MK Dons SET, pictured above. The award is in recognition of his work at MK Dons SET and for his help and support of numerous groups and MK charities .
Another new award for 2017 was the Inspirational Male Supporting Women award presented to PJ Care executive chairman, Neil Russell.
More than 500 guests attended the annual gala dinner, including the High Sheriff of Bucks Peter Kara, the Mayor and Mayoress of Milton Keynes, David and Susan
Hopkins and MK South MP Iain Stewart.
Speakers included previous Women Leaders winner Fola Komolafe and RAF Wing Commander Sarah Maskell. Highly commended certificates were presented in some categories which judges believed merited special recognition. These included MK Dons SET Director of Education, Angela Novell, and Cranfield University’s Dr Tosin Somorin.
Full list of winners included:
Creative Industries – LAURA MILLER
Community Impact Professional – KIM OPSZALA
Community Impact Charity – (Highly Commended, ANGELA NOVELL) KATHY HOWARD
Community Impact Voluntary – JACKY SCOTT
Customer Service – REBECCA PECK
Supply Chain – KAREN ROBSON
Environment & Engineering – (Highly Commended DR TOSIN SOMORIN) DR YOLANDE HERBATH
Science; Technology – LISA BLAKEY
Public Service – DR HAIDO VLACHOS
MK50 Business Services Awards – LIZ MALE MBE
Professional Services – DR HAIDO VLACHOS
Emerging Leader – EMILIA HARDERN
Inspirational Male Supporting Women – NEIL RUSSELL
Female Entrepreneur – FRANZI FLORACK
Unsung Hero – JOHN COVE
Outstanding Contribution – PADMA CHERIYAN