A BLIND veteran from Hampshire has reached the finals of a prestigious international competition.

Penny Melville-Brown, from Fareham, has been selected as one of the 11 finalists from 200 entries in the running for the prestigious Holman Prize, which awards three people $25,000 each to achieve their ambitions.

Penny’s goal is to cook across six continents with her online baking project, Baking Blind, a YouTube channel which documents her cooking and shows that blindness is not the “end of the world”.

She said: “This all started from a very simple idea I had last year as a way of showing that we can still have great capabilities, ambitions, and fun even with blindness or other disabilities. “Being invited to enter the Holman Prize was a great boost for me in creating a YouTube channel and website. All the entrants sent in short video clips and the semi-finalists produced more detailed project plans and budgets. “If I’m lucky enough to win, I’ll be cooking in America, Costa Rica, Australia, China and Malawi with professional and home-cooks, sighted or not.”

Penny, pictured, served for 22 years in the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and Royal Navy, reaching the rank of commander.

She also served as a naval barrister, the first woman to hold such the position.

She was medically discharged from the Royal Navy in 1999 after her eyesight deteriorated and

After she was discharged from the Navy, Penny helped other people with disabilities to start their own businesses and was awarded an OBE in 2009 for her services to disabled and other disadvantaged people.

Talking about the competition, she said: “The adventure will give me enough material to produce a year of videos and blogs plus a recipe book.

“Most importantly, it will be a launchpad to change minds about life with an impairment in all those countries and, perhaps, even further afield. I’ve been wildly ambitious – it just wouldn’t be possible without the prize.”

The Holman prize is awarded by San Francisco Lighthouse, the largest blindness organisation serving Northern California.

It also commemorates James Holman, who lost his sight like Penny while serving in the Royal Navy. He went on to travel the globe solo in the early 19th century, which is commemorated in his biography ‘A Sense of the World’.

The finalists’ proposals will be considered over the next month with a winner expected to be announced in July.

For more information on Penny’s work, visit bakingblind.com.