Smiles, Hairstyles and Institutional Shake-ups: Cynthia, we miss you already

Our Bristol Wellbeing College runs informative courses and workshops for learners receiving support from Bristol Mental Health Services, and their carers. This week, we say goodbye to one of our tutors, colleague and friend, Cynthia Nansimbi as she embarks on a new life chapter in Sweden.

Cynth’s Wisdoms 1:

“The importance of Self compassion & Acceptance – how we face the world and move through it; how we treat those we love, and those we don’t know stems often from how we feel about ourselves. So much springs from the well within. It’s vital to nourish this well; within all of us exists entire universes.”

When I first joined the Wellbeing College and was sitting in the Brunswick Square, reception, I was informed that one of the tutors would be out to meet me ‘to say hello and show me around’. I was yet to meet most of the team and only knew a few names behind the emails and phone numbers. I had no idea who to expect, only the word ‘tutor’ – even though I am one and have been much of my working life – still brought to mind a slightly austere, prude and prim Jane Eyre type. Imagine then, to my relief and joy, when Cynthia swanned through the reception door in a fashion I would come to know as characteristic: bright headscarf, superbly stylish, matched with beaming grin. She looked genuinely pleased to see me, cementing in my memory the warmth and openness of feeling welcomed.

Cynth’s Wisdoms 2:

 “I’ve witnessed through the years the meaning the sessions can have to each of us on any given day, depending on what may be going on for us emotionally, at home, in work that day, or taking up head space; we are made up of so many layers and compartments. We can all gain from sharing space and connecting and learning about wellness and wellbeing, whatever the topic or focus.”

Asking around my colleagues, this memory is not unique. Our newest member, Aoife, talks of a similar experience, in which Cynth’s reassurances levelled her first session nerves. Matt, our coordinator, recalls numerous journeys to Southmead in which conversation flowed, taking it away from the worries of work into the intrigue of open discussion on personality types.

In fact, one thing we’ll certainly miss about Cynth is the certainty that there is someone in the office (or the virtual equivalent, as these days would have it) to whom you can make candid, stimulating talk with on topics that make most squirm.

Ben, head of our Wellbeing Café, recounts the day following George Floyd’s murder, in which the issue was raised in a session. Ben instinctually felt shy of taking up the conversation but, he recalls, ‘Cynthia gave us the grace and space to discuss it in a way that meant we didn’t feel ashamed about our ignorance.’

Cynth’s Wisdoms 3:

“I’ve enjoyed the Assertiveness workshop in particular. It’s always exciting to see people grow more confident and walk away empowered from new ideas; that they are allowed take up more space in their own lives; put themselves first; change. That’s is always gratifying to witness.”

In a tribute to Cynthia’s time at the Bristol Wellbeing College, her dedication to bringing equality to the workplace and raising awareness about BAME issues is paramount. Beyond the endless form and data filling of her co-ordination role, and the toing and froing, research and writing of her tutor role (talk about multi-tasking!), Cynthia worked tirelessly with others to bring the Black Lives Matter to the fore of Second Step’s agenda: a reminder that without people like her – audacious, bold and downright determined – organisations lose out.  

Again, I quote Ben, who summarises this attitude when he says “what is impresseive about Cynthia is that she leaves nothing to chance”. This applies to areas of her work life ranging from areas as important as race equality and diversity in the workplace, to her fastidious note-taking when taking up a new task, to her impeccable style (who will ever be able to contend with the dazzling array of ever-changing hairstyles?).

But there is one thing here I disagree with Ben on, for what greater chance can a person take than to move from one country to another within a month of having gone to visit the place soon to be home?  Testimony to an audacity, boldness and determination we could all do with sharing in.

Cynthia, you leave us with a you-shaped hole. The Friday afternoon office dance hour with Nina to the out-of-hours gatherings knees up (Sally’s favourite memory). How we will fill it, I don’t know, but a little music, a dash of bright colour and a healthy portion of porridge with all the trimmings will be a good place to start.

Cynthia’s Wisdoms 4:

“In the end these things matter most: how well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go”


To find out more about courses available from the Bristol Wellbeing College, and eligibility, visit:

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