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Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards: Brave missionary Maud Kells is crowned

By Amanda Ferguson

Inspiring Northern Ireland missionary Maud Kells has been crowned Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year for 2015.

At last night's celebration of women from all spheres of life here, the 75-year-old Christian missionary from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, scooped our top award and the Inspirational Woman of the Year gong too.

The judging panel was impressed by Maud's bravery, tenacity and selflessness after being shot by bandits in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she has been based for half of each year for decades.

The remarkable 75-year-old WEC International missionary and trained nurse is a hero to many.

Maud's awards come after she received an OBE in the Queen's New Year honours list for dedicating her life to helping those in need.

The newly-crowned Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year said: "It is such a surprise, honour and privilege.

"It has been an honour to work in the Congo all these years."

Maud added: "I speak at a lot of ladies' meetings in Northern Ireland about Africa and if that encourages women and inspires them to go on to do things, it pleases me."

Belfast Telegraph editor Gail Walker chaired the judging panel, which also included freelance writer Maureen Coleman, the head of Ulster Bank Ellvena Graham and former Woman of the Year in Fashion Maureen Martin, who was responsible for co-ordinating last night's fashion show from sponsor, The Outlet, Banbridge.

Ms Walker said: "Maud is an outstanding winner.

"She showed great personal courage and she is such a lovely, vibrant person.

"She is an inspiring lady and it was a unanimous decision by the judges to give her the overall title."

Ms Walker said the judging panel was full of admiration for all the winners and shortlisted nominees.

"It is a huge celebration of women. It is one of the feelgood nights of the year, where we recognise women across so many different categories. Whether that is business, health, education or women who are just doing something great in their personal lives - how they deal with illness and how they help other people struggling in life."

The awards were hosted by broadcaster Wendy Austin, while the St Agnes Choral Society entertained the audience at the Ramada Hotel in Shaw's Bridge.

Siobhan McKeown from The Outlet said: "The Belfast Telegraph's Woman of the Year event was an amazing evening, full of glitz and glamour, celebrating the achievements of women from across the province. In our eyes, everyone nominated was a winner."

Roll call of winners

1. Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in Education, sponsored by Belleek Living

Winner: Charleen Gordon

2. Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in the Voluntary Sector, sponsored by Lidl Northern Ireland

Winner: Sister Olive Cooney

3. Belfast Telegraph Sportswoman of the Year, sponsored by Propertynews.com

Winner: Kelly Gallagher

4. Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in the Health Sector, sponsored

by Linwoods

Winner: Roisin Dorrian

5. Belfast Telegraph Mum of the Year, sponsored by Irwin’s Bakery

Winner: Joyce Craig

6. Belfast Telegraph Inspirational  Woman of the Year, sponsored by  the Grand Opera House

Winner: Maud Kells

7. Belfast Telegraph Businesswoman of the Year, sponsored by ALMAC

Winner: Janet McCollum

8. Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in Hair, Beauty and Fashion, sponsored by Hastings Hotels

Winner: Pamela Smyth

9. Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in the Arts, sponsored by Allianz Insurance

Winner: Leesa Harker

Overall Belfast Telegraph  Woman of the Year, in  association with The OUTLET

Winner: Maud Kells

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