By Paula Suchy - 8th December 2013 6:20pm
Paula Suchy grew up in Haddenham, and on Friday 6th December she was formally presented with her MBE, awarded to her for services to those with visual impairment. Here, Paula recounts her experiences of the day.
You can imagine what a shock it was to me when I received a letter in May this year from the Prime Minister's Office asking if I would accept an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to Visually Impaired People.
Of course I said "yes", firstly as I knew how proud my family would be, and also because I felt great pleasure from the thought that I had been nominated secretly by people who thought I deserved to get an award. I then had to keep the secret from my family and friends for 5 weeks until 15th June when the Queen's Birthday Honours List was published. This was extremely difficult as I was itching to tell my children and my parents but managed not to spill the beans until the day!
I grew up in Haddenham, where my parents still live, and attended St Mary's CE School in the village and Mandeville Secondary School in Aylesbury.
I have always been Visually Impaired and when I left school I went to the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford. Throughout my life I have used the services of Bucks Vision, the local Association for Blind People, so when I moved to Milton Keynes in my twenties, I began to volunteer my help through them to other Visually Impaired People.
Over the last 25 years I have helped Bucks Vision with fundraising, committee work, running clubs and activities, and offering support to newly registered Blind people through the Milton Keynes Resource Centre. Bucks Vision is a countywide organisation with a resource centre in Aylesbury and has many roles for volunteers throughout Buckinghamshire. If anybody would like to volunteer to drive, help at a club or activity group, please phone on 01296 487556. Visually Impaired people and their families can get help and advice from the centre by phone or can make an appointment to go along and look at equipment which might help them.
I have also been involved with our local talking newspaper in Milton Keynes, Sound News. I was the Chairperson for 10 years and I am now Deputy Chair. It is a great organisation which sends out recordings of the local news to 200 people in Milton Keynes who cannot see to read their newspaper.
I am also currently Chairperson of the Milton Keynes Reader Service, a small charity which provides volunteers to read to Visually Impaired People in their homes enabling them to maintain their independence. Our volunteers also take people shopping or help them to take part in other activities like theatre trips, visits to galleries or workshops and adult education classes. The Reader Service is 25 years old and I have been involved since the beginning as a user of the service and helped to run the organisation for the last 23 years.
My investiture took place at Buckingham Palace on 6th December. It was a wonderful experience, the Palace was decorated for Christmas and looked beautiful, and all of the staff were welcoming and helpful which made the day feel relaxed. The award was presented by The Prince of Wales who was of course charming. My husband and parents had front row seats in the Ballroom so had a really good view of the proceedings. One of the questions which the Prince asked me was whether I would be continuing with my voluntary work. I replied that yes indeed I would, I am here to stay.
Paula Suchy, MBE