Winners of the annual Fusion Awards were announced at a glittering ceremony.

Volunteers, charity champions and entrepreneurs from across the North West gathered in Blackburn’s King George’s Hall for the event.

The awards aim to celebrate community cohesion and the contribution of all communities in helping to make the region a better place to live and were hosted by ITV presenter Sam Ali Khan.

The ConnectUK team who are hoping to raise funds for the East Lancashire Hospice were the official charity at the event this year.

Categories include Community Group of the Year, Community Cohesion Award, Man of the Year, Woman of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Youth Leadership Award and the Public Service Award.

Five individuals were honoured in specific fields from sport to education.

Darwen’s Rashmi Barker was named Woman of the Year. Rashmi contracted Polio at a young age but through her life she has aimed to change the perception of disabled people and in 2015 decided to raise money for ‘EMpowered People’ a disability cycling charity. Rashmi used her hand-powered bike and took part in the World Tour of Anglesey which entailed a 111.7 mile cycle from Crewe to RAF Valley at Holyhead.

She said, “It is amazing and I am truly speechless for once. It was such an honour.

“The only thing I can say is what my friends and family say. I have a tough spirit. The force was with me!

“Tonight was just awesome and it was wonderful to be surrounded by so many inspirational people.”

The Man of the Year 2015 was Dr Asim Shahmalak who was honoured for his work in helping acid attack victims in Pakistan.

Hair transplant surgeon Asim Shahmalak, from the Crown Clinic in Manchester, said: "It was an honour to receive the Man of the Year award but the real heroes are the women who have survived these horrific attacks.

"I wept when I first heard what had happened to them.

"Their stories were heartbreaking - scarred for life because you want to better yourself and work as an hair hostess.

"Doused with acid because you turned down a man's proposal - people were better treated in the Middle Ages.

“It was incredibly moving to see the smiles on their faces after we performed the surgery. They had given up hope of ever getting help because the Government in Pakistan cannot afford to do anything for them. We were their last hope.

“They are not accepted by society because of their disfigurement. They cannot get jobs and, in some case, they have been disowned by their families and left to beg on the streets.

"There is still lots more work to do. These attacks are continuing and I plan to go back to Karachi to help more victims in the future."

A student who could speak little English when she came to the UK from Syria but now sits at the top of her class was presented with the UTC Bolton Education Achievement Award at Fusion.

Aysha Sultan has become an inspiration to others in her community and school.

Aysha is now fluent in English and is making dramatic progress; she is forecast to achieve between a B and an A* in all her subjects at the end of year 10, with another whole year to go.

She said, “I am really honoured for receiving the award. I want to thank Pleckgate High School for their support and UTC Bolton for supporting the Education Achievement Award.

“The motivation I got was from my family and my father – he has always supported and encouraged me.

“It means so much to me and helps me realise that I can do it.”

Bolton’s aspiring cricketer Nalisha Patel was presented with the Kumon Achievement in Sport Award 2015.

Nalisha now aged 17 of Bolton was part of the Lancashire women’s team to win the Division 2 championship in 2014. She is presently studying for her A-levels at Runshaw College but took time from her exams to attend the awards with her family.

Nalisha said, “I am just shocked to be honest and didn’t think l would win, with cricket not being a very female dominated sport.

"I think the game is up and coming now. It is important for young girls to realise there are opportunities now to be making a career out of playing cricket. Or just to have fun playing cricket too.

“It is important to highlight the opportunities there are available in the sport.”

The Mumtaz Ellahi Community Sports Award will be presented to Ken Livesey of Islington Football Club. The award is in memory of Blackburn’s Mumtaz Ellahi who was a dedicated sports coach who sadly died of Cancer in 2007.

A familiar face at amateur football matches, Ken has been involved in local sport for much of his life. As well as playing in local leagues he has run numerous football clubs which have aimed to break down barriers between communities.

Now aged 57, the ever determined Ken can still be spotted at matches and even takes to pitch when his side is a player short.

He said, “It is such a wonderful gesture and I am delighted.

"This award is a culmination of what has happened for many years in supporting young people.

“I will keep going if I can!

“It’s difficult at my age and I don’t think I can keep playing. I would want to have someone take over the responsibilities with me just me in the background.”

This year’s Community Cohesion Award was won by the Commemoration of the Jullundur Brigade Project. This innovative series of events and projects aimed to highlight the shared history of Indian soldiers (Hindu’s, Muslims and Sikhs) who fought and died alongside their British Army comrades during some of the bloodiest battles of the First World War.

It was organised by The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment in partnership with Lancashire County Council Heritage Learning Team. The project saw a multi-faith commemoration of the centenary of the first deployment of the Jullundur Brigade at the Indian Army Memorial in France, which was attended by more than 120 soldiers, 90 school children, 30 Army cadets and local religious leaders.

The final award on the night went to Nelson’s Mrs Rasheed Begum.

Mrs Begum, now aged 70 started to bathe (ghusl) deceased Muslim females in the Pendle area over two decades ago. The ritual is done before each burial. She was presented with the Fusion Community Achievement Award.

Speaking on the night she said, “I want to thank everyone for this honour. I always felt it was an important job and one for which I never thought there is any need for recognition.

“But I am thankful to everyone and the community for supporting me.”

Sharon Crymble from the East Lancashire hospice said, “It was a great pleasure to be part of this year’s spectacular Fusion Awards, along with the Connect UK Team who are working tirelessly to spread the message about East Lancashire Hospice across our community and to raise funds for the cause that means so much to our local people who are coping with a life limiting illness.”

Cllr Salim Sidat from Connect UK added, "We would also like to Congratulate all the winners and nominees at Fusion 2015. It was a fantastic evening filled with fun and laughter and a big thank you to Fusion from ConnectUk Team and East Lancashire Hospice Well Done Everyone."

MORE TO FOLLOW Kumon Blackburn Achievement in Sport Award: Nalisha Patel (Bolton); Community Sports Award: Ken Livesey (Blackburn); UcLan Community Group of the Year: BHAI (Bolton); BAE Systems Youth Leadership Award: Mini Muslimah Crew (Preston); Supreme Dream Entrepreneur of the Year: Room Four Dessert (Bolton); Fusion Public Service Award: Dr Yasmin Sajjad (Wirral); Community Achievement Award: Rasheed Begum (Nelson); Aksa Homes Neighbourhood Champion: Carol Morrison (Oldham); Blackburn with Darwen Community; Man of the Year: Asim Shahmalak (Manchester); AMT Lawyers Woman of the Year: Rashmi Barker (Darwen), Cohesion Award: 'Commemoration of the Jullundur Brigade' (North West).