Former Trinidad Express South Bureau reporter Phoolo Danny-Maharaj was among the recipients of this year's Hummingbird Medal Gold for loyal and devoted service to the nation in the field of journalism.
Contacted at her Iere Village, Princes Town, home on Friday she said, "I am positively delighted, not just for me but for journalists in Trinidad and Tobago."
She said at first she wondered what special things she had done to receive national recognition but since the news broke she had been bombarded with congratulatory calls from friends and well-wishers.
"It is beyond my expectations," she said.
She said she was grateful to those responsible for her selection.
"I worked with a passion and am humbled by the national recognition. Journalism has been propelled to the forefront nationally and I am overjoyed to know that journalists are finally being considered as nation builders," she said.
Danny-Maharaj, a mother of two, began her career as a photographer at Two-Photo Studios in Siparia. Seven years later and with the camera her constant companion, she started concentrating on developing her skills in reporting. She joined the Express South Bureau and combined journalism with photography.
During her career, she acted in the position of South Bureau Chief.
Three years ago, her world was momentarily turned upside down when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought against all odds and survived.
"I have implicit faith in God. There is always a reason for everything that happens to us, although we may not see it immediately. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I placed my life in God's hands and continued to perform my duties as best as I could. My days in reporting ended abruptly due to my illness, but it has not stopped me writing," she added.
Unable to put down the pen, she started writing her experiences in a book, which she hopes to release in mid-2013.
"Sometimes bad things happen to steer us in the direction to greater joy and happiness," she said.
Born in Quarry Village, Siparia, she grew up with her maternal grandmother, the late Jane Birbal.
She gained determination and strength from her "Nani" (grandmother), who was a single parent.
As a young girl growing up in the village, she attended the Hindu mandir. Her love for Indian classical dance took her to classes in San Fernando.
Always one to share her knowledge, she started tutoring free of charge younger dancers in her village.
Writing poetry and skits came in later as the group started performing dance dramas during religious festivals.
At home these days, she is engaged in crafting greeting cards, writing short stories and poetry and trying her hand at handicraft.
Danny-Maharaj attends the Bharatiya Vidya Sansthaan (BVS) classes with her sons to study Hindi and music.
"I enjoy taking care of my family full time (when my health allows me). I can sew and do other arts and crafts, I am still trying to be a good cook, but generally, I am doing things I did not have time to do during the busy years," she said.
Reflecting on her years at the Trinidad Express she said, "I always took my job seriously, so much so it was more like worship to me. I tried my best to keep the trust that people put in me. Journalism took me to different parts of the country and I made friends with a cross-section of the population. I am more than contented with my life as a journalist. I have touched the lives of many during my career, but much more people have inspired me as a human being."