Meet the 2017 winners!

Holman Prizewinners: Ojok Simon, Penny Melville-Brown, Ahmet Ustunel

The Holman Prize for Blind Ambition funds the dreams and ambitions of blind people worldwide. The 2017 prizewinners were selected from a pool of over 200 applicants from 27 countries and will each receive up to $25,000 to fund their award-winning projects.


Ahmet Ustunel paddles his kayak in the Bay Area.

Ahmet Ustunel’s project has a clear, unprecedented goal: to kayak solo, without eyesight, from Europe to Asia. With potential for a dramatic climax and high stakes, Ustunel’s daring proposal to cross the 3-mile Bosphorus Strait caught the attention of the Holman Prize Committee. By training in California and working to develop a suite of non-visual guidance technology to thrive on his own in the water, Ustunel hopes to join the ranks of other great blind outdoor heroes such as Erik Weihenmayer, Lonnie Bedwell and others.

Get to know Ahmet.


Penny Melville-Brown makes a pear tart

Penny Melville-Brown has a project with a universal focus: food. With a deep belief in the power of food to connect people, Melville-Brown’s project is a bid to claim a place at the stove for blind chefs everywhere; her intentions are less about competition and perfection and more about connecting with others through culture and shared experience. Maybe she’s the blind Julia Child, or the blind Anthony Bourdain; either way, as Penny documents her travels and successes in her series, “Baking Blind,” the world will follow along with her.

Get to know Penny.


Ojok Simon will take on a drastically different kind of project than his fellow winners. Simon seeks to raise employment rates for blind and partially sighted individuals in rural regions of his home country of Uganda. His method? Teach them a very specialized and somewhat unlikely skill: beekeeping. For decades, Simon has been a passionate beekeeper finding ways to tend bees in nontraditional and non-visual ways. Simon wants to impart his warm attitude and entrepreneurial spirit on other blind individuals in Africa and abroad, rather than seeing them relegated to poverty and reliance on charity.

Get to know Ojok.