Proud to Be - Vinyo

Vinyo, Finance and IT Director, is first to feature in our Proud to Be series, celebrating stories which showcase diversity in our team here at St Michael’s Hospice.

I was born in Accra, Ghana – formerly the Gold Coast – a few years after it gained independence from British rule. I am a middle child with 2 older sisters and 2 younger brothers, and as my parents were both from large families, we grew up with numerous cousins. My name Vinyo means “good child” or “a child is good”, so I try very hard to live up to that!

Culturally, my life when I was growing up was centred around family, religion, education, a good work ethic, dressmaking (which may account for my sometimes colourful outfits!), sports – I played hockey – but am mainly a football fan (Accra Hearts of Oak and Manchester United).

I love family gatherings and I mean family in the widest sense, both planned and impromptu multi-generational affairs including friends and their families with cooking and food (West Africa meets Western Europe, Caribbean meets Asian fusion) and story-telling at the heart of it.

So how did I end up at St Michael’s Hospice? I had spent a couple of summer and Christmas holidays in the UK but never saw myself living anywhere else but, this all changed when my love for my now husband brought me to London after having met at university in Ghana. I had always wanted to be an Accountant like my father, I just had to make a slight adjustment to where and how I would train. When I qualified in the early 1990s and had decided that working in an accountancy practice wasn’t for me, my college friend invited me to apply for a position in her family’s learning disabilities care home business in Hastings. This was my introduction to health and social care, a field in which I have spent most of my career, and later on, prompted by my interest to continue to work in the charitable sector I studied for an MSt in Social Enterprise and Community Development at Cambridge; both of which led me to apply for a position at the Hospice in 2013.

I enjoy working for the Hospice because my role is quite varied and sometimes challenging and I gain a real sense of achievement being part of a team that provides a vital service to the community in which I live, and have made friends.

Recent challenges for black and brown people (the media covering racism, inequality and injustice) arising from global and national events; and the discourse during and since the recent Covid-19 pandemic around Black Lives Matter and the Windrush scandal have touched me deeply, and have made me reflect a lot on my lived experiences as a black person living in Britain. I feel more empowered to talk freely about issues around race without worrying that I am making a fuss or making people around me feel uncomfortable.

I have learnt within our community we should actively hold ourselves and one another accountable for any injustice. We should be curious and brave in exploring what diversity means to each and every one of us, as the first step to a better understanding that enables us to be more inclusive. I believe that from that basic principle of inclusivity, equality will follow.

I am proud of many things: my Christian faith which sustains me; my mother Diana, husband Andrew, daughter Aniesha, son Liam, close family and friends whom I love and who love me unconditionally; my resilience; my heritage: a black woman made-in-Ghana / matured-in-Britain; my career as a finance professional; my colleagues and all we achieve as a team; initiatives like Black History Month which every year gives people like me a platform to share our stories.

I am proud to be ME.