3 July 2012
We are delighted to announce that Sonya Chowdhury will be the next Chief Executive of Action for M.E..
She will take over from Sir Peter Spencer, who is standing down as CEO after five years, in early September.
Sonya, 37, is currently working in senior management roles for leading children’s charity Barnardo’s where she is Head of Business Support for two days a week and National Lead on Family Strategic Partnership for the remaining three.
Born and bred in Bath, Somerset, where she lives with her husband and two sons aged nine and 14, Sonya was previously Assistant Director for Barnardo’s in the South West.
She said that while applying for a chief executive role was a logical next step in her career, her own personal experience of chronic illness had been a major factor in her applying for the role with Action for M.E.
Sonya said, “I suffer from Fibromyalgia which, while different from M.E., has given me an insight into the effects of a long term illness on people’s lives. While I am lucky enough to be able to manage my condition and work, I have experience of its debilitating effects and impact on day-to-day living.
“When I saw the advert’ for this role, it touched something on a personal level.
“I see it as an ideal opportunity to bring together my experience both at work, where I have been heavily involved in policy, politics, fundraising and strategy, and my personal life.”
Of the challenges ahead for the charity, Sonya said, “During a period of austerity, there is understandably a sharper focus on what will and will not be funded. We need to look at new opportunities and accept that things will not stay the same.
“There is something exciting about working creatively with people who have passion about what they do. I look forward to working with what is clearly an enthusiastic team.”
Action for M.E. Chairman, Alan Cook, said, “We are very fortunate to be able to appoint somebody of Sonya’s high calibre. She has had an impressive career to date, where she has developed knowledge and skills that will drive the charity forward.
“Her enthusiasm and energy are infectious and will serve her well in this demanding appointment.”
In an announcement to staff about Sonya’s departure, Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Anne Marie Carrie, said, “This role represents a wonderful opportunity for Sonya to build upon the skills and experience she has developed here at Barnardo’s and I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for her excellent work.
“Under her leadership the Family Strategic Partnership has taken great strides to improve the work of the voluntary sector in supporting the lives of vulnerable families across England.”
A University of Bath graduate, Sonya has qualifications in social work and practice teaching and has previously worked in senior management roles within the voluntary sector.
She was Operations Manager for Bath and North East Somerset Council’s “Off The Record” project, delivering specialist services to young people and working strategically with other agencies.
She has also worked as an Independent Consultant and Trainer undertaking a wide range of contracts with local authorities, police, health and voluntary sector authorities.
Her other professional work has included specialist children’s, drug and alcohol and respite services.
Sonya, whose father was Bangladeshi and mother English, says she is very proud of her Asian heritage and loves the diversity and richness of cultures that can be found in Bristol where Action for M.E. is based.
She said, “My father was the first black Asian councillor in Bath and was in line to be the next Deputy Mayor when he died.”
With her family and friends and people who knew her parents, Sonya has been involved in raising money for charities that provide education and support for children in Bangladesh and Kenya.
A saxophonist, Sonya is currently Chair of the Bristol Reggae Orchestra, a community-based organisation based in the St Paul’s district of the city.
She said, “This was supposed to be a six week project involving rehearsals leading to a one-off concert. However, it was such an exciting project that everyone involved just wanted to carry on and now we perform across the South West and beyond.”
Sonya will also be taking part in the Sax Massive at Somerset House in London when 200 saxophonists will perform as part of the BT River Music Festival, which takes place at historic sites along the Thames over the weekend of 21 and 22 July to mark the London 2012 Olympics.
Sonya is also a Parent Governor at Ralph Allen School in Bath and lists among her leisure activities: ferrying her children to various sporting and social events, Zumba dancing, getting out to music gigs, cooking and hosting dinner parties.
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