Devonie Bernard: Advocating for excellence in service and dutyMonday, October 25, 2021
DEVONIE Bernard almost died at birth and would go on to face illness and frequent stints in the hospital throughout her life. It is no wonder then that she understands the value of celebrating all her wins, even while being committed to consistent excellence. A mental health advocate and the recipient of Victoria Mutual (VM) Group's prestigious President's Award, Bernard said the challenges she has faced has honed the strength she needs to fulfil all her goals.
Bernard, a 27-year-old process quality analyst with the financial group, said having overcome a litany of hardships throughout her life, she wants others to be inspired by her journey.
“I was in and out of the hospital and was told several times that I might not live. I also struggled to afford school at all levels of my education and, with all the challenges, I developed a different appreciation for life and a resilience to overcome anything. I want others to understand that when God has a calling on your life, nothing can stand in your way to success or your purpose,” she said.
Raised in rural Hanover with her mother, stepfather, and sister, Bernard said she discovered as early as 14 years old the importance of positive mental health practices, after observing the challenges faced by her own family and later battling depression after the loss of a close friend.
It is no wonder then that she now leads the VM Wellness Committee as chairman and believes her contribution to the promotion of mental wellness and work life balance through this team contributed, in part, to her being honoured with the coveted President's Award by group president and CEO Courtney Campbell. Through the committee, Bernard has hosted webinars on mental health, dental health, and manoeuvering the new COVID-19 normal. The committee has also started a Virtual Fitness Club and is liaising with the Group Human Resources Department to create a wellness guide for the VM Group.
She is also an active advocate through Her Reality Project, a charitable group she started to help women develop mental health coping skills and life balance.
Bernard said she has been an advocate and leader since her time as a student. While reading for a degree in history and heritage management at The University of the West Indies, Mona, she was also a member of the Guild of Students and the Irvine Hall chairwoman, and was actively involved in The UWI External Affairs Committee, as well as varying charitable clubs and societies.
“My upbringing taught me courage, strength, and resilience. I also learnt to appreciate the small things and appreciate everyone that you meet because you never know what they are going through. My past is the reason I am humble and would like to be there for others who are hurting and need a shoulder to lean on,” she said.
A recipient of the VM Excellence Award in 2018 and 2019, Bernard also credits her commitment to delivering excellence in her roles for her latest win. In less than five years with VM, she has worked as customer service representative, teller, a vault teller, and acting teller supervisor before being promoted to her current role in April.
“I was elated and humbled to know I was selected [for the President's Award], because I know the sacrifices I have made in my previous roles, including the hard work and dedication to ensure the success of my team. It means a lot to me because excellence is my motivation. I am from humble beginnings, and I have a fire inside me that continues to burn for success as I know I have defied many odds to be where I am today,” Bernard said.
“I have been blessed with great mentors and friends here that continue to support and inspire me, which I know will lead to lifelong friendships. I enjoy the challenges that force you to grow and the impact that I can have on people I interact with.”
Bernard said she is looking forward to one day being a life coach and motivational speaker to continue to inspire others to achieve great things despite challenges they face.
She encourages people to remove doubt and fear in pursuit of their success.
“Take the first step; remove the negative energies that surround you and make the most of each day and every opportunity. You have to learn to pray and trust God. Trust your process because with time your hardship or challenges will make sense.”