Hampshire blind veteran leading virtual baking session for visually impaired and blind people on World Baking Day

A Royal Navy blind veteran will be hosting a free baking session on Monday 17 May to encourage others with sight loss to adapt their cookery skills and demonstrate that it’s still possible to be ambitious and capable in the kitchen.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE, from Fareham, was selected as one of the three winners of the Holman Prize in 2017, an award given by the San Francisco ‘Lighthouse’ organisation. Penny won a $25,000 prize to fulfil a life ambition. This allowed her to take her baking project, Baking Blind, on a global tour across six continents. Penny says:

“Baking is a universal language with the power to bring us all together. During lockdown, I have hosted three other online baking sessions; cake, bread and biscuits. This month we’ll be making pork pies. They’re all items that will be part of a celebratory afternoon tea for when we come out of lockdown!”

Penny served for 22 years in the Royal Navy. During her time in service, she travelled around the world working for NATO, she also worked on the Navy’s Home Defence and War Planning team, took charge of the public relations function for the WRNS in the Ministry of Defence and took the lead of the University Royal Naval Units. After becoming the first woman naval barrister, her deteriorating eyesight meant she was medically discharged in 1999. She has been running her own business, Disability Dynamics, a specialist organisation which focuses on helping disabled people back to work for the last 20 years. In 2018, Penny was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by London Middlesex University. In 2009, she was awarded an OBE for her service to disabled people.

Penny says:

“I want to help other disabled people and demonstrate to them what they can do. You just have to do things differently, it’s not that you can’t do them. During the live baking session, I’ll show different techniques and those on the call and viewers can interact and ask questions. All the recipes we’ve done so far have been easy, quick with simple ingredients. It doesn’t matter if you’re a total beginner or an advanced baker – any ability can get involved!”

Penny has been supported Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, for over 20 years. She says:

“They have been really helpful and a great support to me especially with IT. They have provided me with a screen reader so it’s easier to read recipes”.

As well as the Baking Blind project, Penny is currently finishing her first book which will focus on her world tour and include all her favourite recipes.

Penny is encouraging others who are visually impaired or blind to join her on World Baking Day. To sign up, please follow the link: https://bit.ly/2SMOugB

Penny’s YouTube channel Baking Blind can be found here: https://bit.ly/3tI2HYN

Nicky Shaw, Blind Veterans UK Director of Operations said:

“Living in isolation, blind veterans need our help right now with daily tasks, such as the shopping, and constant emotional support through this difficult time. So we are temporarily changing our service and mobilising our staff to provide practical, essential support to help the most vulnerable.

“There is so much that we can and must do to support blind veterans to help them maintain physical and emotional wellbeing, and to feel safe, reassured and cared for during this crisis.”



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