Aruna Vieira – Pick of the Bunch – #BlackHistoryMonth

As Black History Month 2023 draws to a close, we thought it would be fitting to feature Aruna Vieira in October’s edition of ‘Pick of the Bunch’, sharing his insights and experiences. At Glendale, we are massive advocates for diversity and inclusivity, continually working towards fostering a more inclusive and diverse green services industry. With this in mind, join us in exploring Aruna’s perspective on Glendale, his journey into the industry, and his views on diversity within this sector.

To start with, we asked Aruna how he entered the green services industry:

“I started with the Glendale Lewisham contract through a friend of mine who at the time was working with Glendale also, he encouraged me to apply for a job, I did apply, and I got the job as a driver and litter picker.  I always wanted to work in an outdoor environment and close to nature, I love nature and working in the park is where I feel closer to nature.”

Through hard work and dedication, Aruna soon progressed into a supervisor position, which he proudly states is his biggest achievement to date:

“Biggest achievement for me would be when I was promoted to a supervising position. I realised that I have come a long way in a country where I could not understand the language when I started.”

Like many sectors, the green services sector had to adapt and overcome during the global pandemic, Aruna talks about his experience working during COVID:

“Also, another achievement which I would be most proud of would be during the COVID-19 period. That was an example of how well people can work together and achieve their goals making a difference in a very diverse community. An example of teamwork and achieving together in very difficult circumstances, when everyone was advised to visit our parks, we had to organise as a team and support each other by constantly motivating each other to make sure we raised and kept the highest standards by keeping our parks clean and safe for our diverse community of the public who had nowhere else to go to, in a very difficult time when fear and death were constant reminder s of how difficult a time we were facing.

“We achieved our goals of making sure of safety every day, we all were in on time and sometimes finishing even later just to make sure we could make a difference in the community we love and had a part to play even in very difficult circumstances.  It even made me prouder when everyone was complimenting us and thanking us for the difference. Some people wanted us to know how pleased they were and brought us plenty of drinks and presents like chocolates just to thank us. There were so many boxes of drinks we ran out of space to store drinks people were bringing to thank us.”

Moving onto the topic of diversity in honour of Black History Month, we wanted to know what Aruna’s experience was like as a person of colour in the green services sector, we asked Aruna if he could share any personal experiences of diversity (or lack of) in the industry and how it’s shaped his perspective:

“In Lewisham, we have a very diverse and inclusive group of people all working together supporting each other from the management to the members of staff, Glendale overall is a very diverse and inclusive company. We also have benefited a lot from our contract location which is located in a very diverse part of London, that is why I want to be an example for the younger generation in Lewisham so they can understand that there’s an opportunity if I can arrive in the community with a language barrier and can achieve what I achieved, anyone also can.”

A fantastic message to the younger generation, Aruna faced language barriers and is also a part of a minority group, he didn’t let this hinder his success though. In his own words, Aruna tells us how important he thinks promoting diversity and inclusivity is:

“I believe diversity is important because it is the promoter of inclusivity and inclusivity promotes our reality and humanity, which is made of different people from different cultures, all working together to achieve the same goal.”

Importantly, we wanted to know how Glendale has fostered or supported a culture of diversity and inclusivity during Aruna’s time here:

“Glendale has always supported equal opportunity to all, making sure any training needs are supported and promoting a positive attitude. Overall investing in people’s needs to develop their talents, independent of your background.”

This has always been our goal, and we’re beyond proud that our employees recognise the work we’re doing to make sure there’s no discrimination or unconscious bias – everyone is equal here at Glendale. Aruna goes on to talk about the difficulties in getting people of colour to choose this industry to start a career in:

“I think it is very difficult for any industry nowadays to encourage people to take a career path, in particular, it is not easy to take any initiative in green services to encourage more people of colour to consider as their first choice, because there are plenty of others options like sports and music which is where most of the black youths tend to follow as their first choice. But with some advertising of good examples of those who achieved in green services, I believe we can encourage some to enter green services. If we can create a trust culture between the next generation and support through our apprenticeship program, maybe we can encourage people of colour to consider green services.”

An insightful reflection from Aruna as the typical dreams from the younger generation tend to be becoming the next Messi or a worldwide pop sensation, though we believe creating and fostering green spaces should definitely be up there! Helping the environment and becoming part of the community is all in a day’s work for a Glendale employee.

As a person of colour, Aruna has some wise words for the next generation, which he hopes will inspire them to enter this field:

“I believe my experience as a person of colour will inspire others by promoting belief and trust, I hope when anyone looks at what I achieved with the company by looking at where I started without any education or industry knowledge and can be where I am today leading others, and making decisions, my experience may inspire and encourage any person who may feel that they don’t have the education or knowledge to succeed. I hope they trust and believe the company and people they may be working with to support in their journey, nothing will stop you if you continue to trust and believe first in yourself and in others you will be working with.”

A fantastic closing statement from Aruna, don’t let anything stop you from achieving what you want to achieve. Aruna goes on to say that Glendale supported him by offering all the relevant training as when he started, he “did not know how to use a computer and could not write or speak English” Now, today he is one of the regional trainers, which “would never be possible if not for the support given through plenty of training and courses.” Glendale takes pride in our dedicated team, we try and foster a positive and inclusive workforce, which is shown through Aruna’s experience, he tells us “I was surrounded by excellent managers and very excellent work colleagues through the years, who have given me plenty of support, I can’t thank all of them enough.”

Wrapping up this insightful edition of ‘Pick of the Bunch’, we asked Aruna if he had any last comments he wanted to share:

“Since 2004 when I started within the company, I have worked with different people from different backgrounds and have always enjoyed my time with the company and always felt supported to achieve the results needed and motivated to achieve more. I want to thank everyone I have ever worked with from any other ethnic background who made it possible for me to be where I am today. Thank you all for your support and trust. All of the experiences enriched me to be where I am today.”

A massive thank you to Aruna for participating in our ‘Pick of the Bunch’ series, the role you play within Glendale cannot be overstated and we’re beyond proud to have you a part of our team.

Black History Month is an extremely important topic here at Glendale – unfortunately, we recognise that there is still racism and discrimination within the UK, especially within predominantly white areas. Whether that’s in a company’s hiring process, or simply in day-to-day interactions. The colour of someone’s skin should not be a factor for judgement, we hope one day these old-fashioned views can be erased for good, but for now, we’ll focus on steps to make Glendale even more inclusive and diverse, as well as the industry as a whole. We have a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of discrimination and make sure there is no bias in our hiring process, so everyone gets a chance, no matter their ethnicity, gender, race, sexuality, or religion.

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