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Behind the Scenes of a Big Moment in My Life

I had the incredible honor on International Women’s Day 2020 to be awarded as one of the “100 most inspirational women in the world” by Women Appreciating Women (WAW), both for “Endless Positive Contribution to Society” and as a “Visionary Woman Serving Humanity”.

When the gala event took place in London last year, the world was in shock over COVID-19 and Europe was just beginning to feel the pandemic’s effects. We didn’t know what to expect, or how long it would last.

It didn’t feel right for me to go public with all the details then. I couldn’t celebrate the award when our world was shaken to the core. And as a mental health professional, my priority was my work and serving people in need of support.

Now, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel… and so, exactly a year to the date, I’m ready to share this important moment in my life and career with you.

BEFORE

Monday 10th February, 2020

When I received an email about my nomination, I thought it was spam! Hilarious. 🙂 I just wasn’t expecting anything like this. When I received the programme and invitation to the gala, I started jumping up and down with joy. Next came a very exciting time of preparation, like finding the right dress and jewellery, and planning my trip.

 

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Programme for the Women Appreciating Women (WAW) awards ceremony, London, 2020

Saturday 7th March, 2020 

I arrived in London, carrying my dress because I was so afraid it might become lost luggage, and listening to my favorite songs (“What a wonderful world”, “My way” and “Dance me to the end of love”). My first stop? Tapas and cocktails with two dear friends who are based in London. I couldn’t wait for the next day.

 

Vivian-chiona-with-best-friends-expat-nest

What a wonderful world, indeed! Hanging with two of my BFs in London.

DURING

Sunday 8th March, 2020 

I woke up early to a wonderful, sunny day in London, before starting my six-hour preparations for the gala (make-up, hair, I know, I know…). At the hair salon, I asked the stylist to make my hair perfect for the event and he very sweetly replied: “Vivian, you’ve reached perfection in what you do, so just relax and enjoy your big day as it only lasts today.”

This nugget of wisdom (and delightful flattery!) helped me to relax and enjoy myself, regardless of how I might look on the big day. What mattered was how special this occasion was, without the pressure of expectations of how it should be.

The gala

On arriving at the gala, I saw and met amazing women from all over the world. Big smiles, red carpets, interviews (see below)! I had inspiring conversations that made me feel blessed to be there and among these women.

All women must win!

We entered the reception hall, and the ceremony started with great joy, though marked by a bittersweet moment: one of the award recipients had passed away a few days before the event. Her granddaughter was there to receive the award, and in tears. I cried with her, and said to myself: “God, thank you for the blessing of being alive and to experience such an honour and that I am here to appreciate it!” At the same time, I prayed for the soul of the woman who had passed and thanked her for her contribution to our world. Her legacy is alive. 

What we offer, and our love, is what remains at the end…

 

WAW-awards-

Delighted to be seated next to Nigerian princess Ronke Ademiluyi

When the moment of accepting my award arrived, my heart was pounding and I felt ecstatic. All the hard years of work, all the love and effort put into the vision of Expat Nest by my team and I was being recognised. 

I have never expected an award as the biggest award for me is seeing the progress of the people we help, the tears in their eyes when they thank us for the difference we make in their lives… It felt so great to receive this, though. When I started Expat Nest, I was told that I was crazy for doing something so different; a concept like this would fail, they said, as people will always choose a psychologist in their area regardless if they are expat specialized or not.

Back in 2013, when I started Expat Nest, that would have been the easy way. But I knew the international community had unique needs and that internationals deserved access to high standards of mental health support from expat-specialized counsellors who understood them and could help them. My vision was like a fire burning within me. I had to follow it… and now Expat Nest has become bigger than me.

 

Vivian-chiona-expat-nest-WAW-Award-winner-London-2020.

What an honour to receive this award.

 

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The 2020 WAW award winners. How much I miss big gatherings!

AFTER 

Monday 9th March, 2020 

The next morning, I woke with a warm happiness and decided to treat myself and my great friend Viola Edward (thank you for your continued support and love, and your company during the event) to a high tea ceremony in a very nice hotel in London. Piano music, delicious food, friendship… what more could I have asked for?!

 

 

High tea with my friend and well-respected colleague Viola Edward

TODAY…

I wanted to share this “behind-the-scenes” with you as a way to celebrate with you and, above all, to thank you for being part of the Expat Nest family. You made this happen! Love you! ♥️♥️  

Thank you also to those who have been there for me and to the Expat Nest team, from collaboration partners to the IT and editorial teams – everyone who works with such passion to make this dream a reality.

And keep believing in YOUR dreams. Your voice needs to be heard and your vision deserves to be honoured.

 

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