A woman has shared her extraordinary story of how she went from travelling the world and working for world’s famous Hilton International to cleaning and tidying the streets of Chorleywood.
Canadian Rhonda Vanderwood went from being the international director of network communications for one of the world’s most famous hotel brands to winning an award for her dedication to her street cleansing work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rhonda, who is Three Rivers District Council’s only female street cleaner, moved to the UK 30 years ago when her employer, Hilton International, was bought by Ladbrokes.
She travelled the world installing computer systems for the company and she went from Montreal to Manhattan to Watford.
Rhonda took early retirement from the corporate world in 2006 but continued working with people, giving help and advice on setting up companies combined with some childminding.
In January 2020 the role as a street cleansing operative came her way.
She said: “I just thought it was a wonderful opportunity to get 12 hours of work, get out of the house, earn a bit of money and speak to adults as opposed to children all of the time.”
Not long after the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and Rhonda kept working, keeping the streets clean, only changing her hours so she could accommodate the need for social distancing when the streets were quieter.
She added: “A lot of people do tend to stop and chat with me, which I think is wonderful, but I wasn’t able to get my barrow around when there were people on the street and obviously staying two metres away was difficult.”
Rhonda was awarded a Chorleywood Community Champion Award for her hard work and dedication.
Cllr Debbie Rosario, chair of the Chorleywood parish council, said: “Rhonda is a fantastic street cleaner and is always upbeat and friendly and is a breath of fresh air. Her personality is as vibrant as her hi-vis jacket.”
Cllr Sarah Nelmes, the leader of Three Rivers District Council, said: “Her reputation of dedication, friendliness and high standards are an inspiration and I’m extremely proud that her work has been recognised by Chorleywood Parish Council.”
Rhonda added: “I was quite astonished when I realised people considered my role as being as important as they do. I’m obviously very grateful and very appreciative. I receive great support from my boss and the rest of the waste management team.”
Picture credit Three Rivers District Council