Maria Quaife who was brought up in Havering is a community hero; having just won the ‘Community Champion Award’ at the SHE awards, an award that recognises and celebrates the achievements of women from all walks of life.
The annual SHE awards ceremony, hosted by the Sapphire London Group, took place on 8th March 2021, with their first virtual event to celebrate International Women’s Day, where the Havering lady was recognised for the fantastic community work she does.
Maria founded and is the CEO of the charity, S.M.I.L.E London and Essex, a poverty prevention charity based in Romford. Their main focus is providing practical support to low income and disadvantaged families in London and Essex. S.M.I.L.E started in the lounge of Maria’s 1-bedroom flat and is now partnered with 22 hostels including Havering, Barking and Dagenham. In addition to the families at these hostels, they have over 600 families who are directly registered to the Romford hub for their services.
In recognition of all her amazing hard work across east London Maria said:
“S.M.I.L.E will always be my baby. Something that started as a small project, has now snowballed into a hugely successful registered charity, with paid staff and a large volunteering force. I feel incredibly proud of what S.M.I.L.E has become and that the impact we have on the community has been recognised by such a prestigious award panel. It feels amazing to be recognised for all my hard work; as a young C.E.O, I am faced with a lot of criticism and prejudice by the older generation in business. So, by winning this award it validates my struggle to be taken seriously and demonstrates that the work provided by S.M.I.L.E is vital to our community”
She finished by saying how shocked she actually was at winning this prestigious award:
“I am still in shock that I won the Community Champion award as I am only as strong as my team. Growing up in poverty and leaving school at 14 to be a young carer to my dad who was a single parent, I never imagined that I would be running a business, let alone being a chief executive before reaching 25. I hope that my achievements will encourage more disadvantaged young girls to make their mark in business and not see their age or gender as an obstacle to success. I believe female-led awards celebrating female success is a step towards more young females breaking through the glass ceiling in the corporate world.”