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New Year’s honours for charity ambassadors

31 December 2020

Kidney Research UK is celebrating after two of our ambassadors were named in the New Year Honours List for their work helping people with kidney disease.

Eastenders actress Nina Wadia and volunteer Swaran Chowdhury have both been recognised for their voluntary work.

Nina, who found fame on acclaimed comedy sketch show Goodness Gracious Me, before landing a role on the BBC soap Eastenders, has been awarded an OBE for services to entertainment and charity.

Swaran, known to friends as Judy, has been awarded the British Empire Medal, BEM, for her services to Kidney Research UK, organ donation and South Asian communities in Scotland.

BEM recipients are chosen for their outstanding hands-on services to the local community.

Nina Wadia at Kidney Research UK London Bridges Walk
Nina Wadia OBE

Fantastic examples of women

Sandra Currie, chief executive of Kidney Research UK, said: “Both Nina and Judy have been supporting the charity for many years now. In their different roles, and from different parts of the UK, they spread the word about the charity, and about the importance of our research.

“Both are fantastic examples of women who give their time and voice to support the charitable work of Kidney Research UK, in a humble and unassuming way. It has always been a privilege to work with both of them.”

Thought it was a prank

Nina is “still in a bit of a daze” to receive the award and says when the call first came about it, she thought it was friends playing a prank.

Nina became an ambassador through experiencing first-hand the devastation kidney disease can cause for families after her mother Homai died as a result of polycystic kidney disease.

In spite of everything, Nina said her mum went through dialysis and transplant with tremendous courage.

“Thanks to the research funded by the charity, every day we get closer to finding a cure for kidney disease. Because I watched my mum suffer with polycystic kidney disease, I am pleased to have the opportunity to help raise awareness and provide support for others in the same situation.”

Scottish Peer Educators
Swaran Chowdhury BEM (3rd from left) with Scottish peer educators

Honoured for work with local communities

Swaran (Judy) Chowdhary, was the first volunteer peer educator for Kidney Research UK in our Scottish Project, reaching out to local communities to share information and help increase awareness of kidney disease.

The project also tackles the shortage of organ donors in South Asian communities across the UK.

“I am so honoured. I never expected this,” Swaran said.

Her work has been praised by the Scottish Government.

Minister for Public Health, Mairi Gougeon MSP, said: “I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to Judy Chowdhary for her very well-deserved honour.

“She has made an amazing contribution to raising awareness about organ donation amongst South Asian communities in Scotland and is a passionate advocate of the benefits of both living and deceased donation.

“Her work as one of Kidney Research UK’s key peer educator volunteers in Scotland has encouraged a wide range of people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register.

“The Scottish Government is pleased to be able to support this project to enable peer educators like Judy to help dispel myths and encourage people to talk more about kidney disease and organ donation.”

Neerja Jain, health equalities programme manager for Kidney Research UK, said: “The award is well deserved as Judy always goes above and beyond in her peer educator role. She gave her maiden speech at Scottish Parliament, Holyrood at the tender age of 67, and was fantastic. We are extremely proud of her.”

Judy’s husband, Surjit Chowdhary, also a peer educator, was awarded the MBE in 2017 for his volunteering work in the local hospice, temple and for Kidney Research UK.

“They are an inspiring couple and we are extremely proud of their achievements,” Neerja said.

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