COLUMN – Nichole –– media and the mind
Name: Nichole Murray
Education: Queen’s College; Barbados Community College;
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill;
UWI Open Campus, Barbados;
Barbados Vocational Training Board; Bethany College of Missions.
Qualifications: Associate degree in mass communications; Bachelor of Arts in psychology; Certificate Bible Studies And Missions; Certificate In NGO Management; Certificate In Make-Up Artistry.
Occupation: Communications consultant –– business missionary.
If you had to introduce yourself to the world, what would you say?
Hi, world, my name is Nichole and I am a leader. I am a winner. That’s what my name means. I am the people’s victory and I live to accomplish that in what I do.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about purpose. I am grieved when I see people packed full with potential but too afraid to step out and take the risk to try.
Second to that, I am passionate about children and matters that affect them, and I have a deep desire to understand the dynamics between people and what makes us gel or repel each other.
After leaving Queen’s College without completing six form, you enrolled in the mass communications programme at BCC. What influenced this decision?
My performance at school began to decline after fifth form. My mum was dying of breast cancer and I found that I couldn’t focus, and the pressures of A Levels and the risk of my failing a course was too great. So I left Queen’s College at the end of Lower 6.
I couldn’t handle running to the hospital daily or coming home to care for her on evenings after school, along with worrying about school uniforms, helping my brothers at home, prefect duties, living up to people’s expectations, and so on.
Enrolling in a new programme at BCC seemed like the best decision at the time, since it eased some of the pressure. Also, if I failed a course, it was easier to redo it than at A Levels. And I loved asking questions; so mass communications was the perfect choice.
In 2000, you interned as a technical assistant and news writer at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation. What was that experience like?
I was 18 and my mum had just died and I was looking forward to anything that would get me out of the house for the full daylight period. I enjoyed working in radio with Sir Larry Mayers who let me operate the board and the phone lines for some call-in programmes, and on the sports desk with Terry Mayers.
I tried to get there as early as I could in the morning. I felt like a queen when my story got the A1 spot on the CBC Evening News! It was about the Government at the time looking to draft legislation for environmental police.
I stayed on well beyond the six-week period and wanted to stay and work in the newsroom because I was learning so much about how politics affects the media, and the delicate dance that staff at a Government-owned media house have to master.
From video broadcast to print media. What was that transition and experience like working as a journalist with the Barbados Advocate, and how did that experience contribute to the work you do today?
I never paid much attention to print in mass com class, but after returning to Barbados and seeing the advertisement
in the Wednesday Advocate, I couldn’t resist submitting the application. I had something to say.
The two environments were the same in a lot of ways with people going and coming, phones ringing, strict deadlines and eating lunch at random times of day. Journalism is 100% adrenaline.
However, working at the Barbados Advocate was my best employment experience to date. I was an investigative reporter and surpassed all targets that were set for me. There I found my voice, my writing style, and learnt to hear people out; and I left there having been promoted to assistant to the editor and having several pay increases for my hard work. I was driven to see the publication to which I was assigned grow and thrive in that market.
Today I am preparing to launch a magazine of my own called Caribbean Christians, and I have interviewed Christian leaders, businesspeople and artistes from all over the region, and I am excited about how my gift of writing will positively impact on individuals and families.
You received an award as a journalist. Who gave the award and what was it for?
In 2008, UNICEF Barbados gave me an award for Consistent Coverage Of Children’s Rights Issues. I had no idea that people were watching and paying close attention to my efforts to raise awareness about child abuse and the general fragility of children in the Caribbean.
Our children are fighting so hard to rise above the very thick layer of failure that we cloak over them. We fail them so much in our legislations and in our homes. We fail them when we leave them to roam the streets, and to their own devices.
If no one stops and intervenes to save them, then they run the risk of being exposed to predators without justice.
Earth, wind, fire or water. If you had a choice, which one would you be, and why?
I would be water. Water is life to planet Earth, and is refreshing when purified. It is the most powerful element of the four. Who can control it or contain it when it rises and decides it wants to take a course, and who can understand the deep mysteries of renewal when one takes a spiritual path?
The Bible says the voice of the Lord is upon the waters. I would love for the voice of the Lord to always be over me.
If you had the opportunity to live your life over again, starting from the time you entered secondary school, what is one thing you would do differently, and why?
Do I have to answer this question? I would have stuck at the things I loved and taken my eyes off other people. I knew my mum was poor, and I never asked her for anything. I loved lawn tennis, but I dropped out because I didn’t want to burden my mum
with having to buy supplies.
Then I fell in love with hockey, but then everyone else signed up and I backed out.
I was a Cadet but I never went to Star Camps to get promotion because I didn’t want to ask for money to pay camp fees.
If I had to do it again, I would have allowed myself to be a child and asked, instead of trying to be a grown-up and tough it out.
I should not have robbed my mother of the chance to give me what she could to make me happy. I also would not be so hard
on myself ever again.
If you were given $1 million, what five things would you use it for?
First thing I would do is pull out all of the plans, projects and programmes that are on my hard drive and filter them.
1. Build my business in the Caribbean and my home so that it could support me and my personal goals. This would help me to separate my needs from those of others. Why me first? I have realized that I can’t help others effectively if I also need help. People don’t understand the psychological buffer that an owned home and an inheritance creates for a family and bloodline.
2. I would build a state-of-the-art rehabilitation centre for juvenile delinquents and ask parents to allow me the honour to finish the last few years of their child’s upbringing.
3. Start a missions agency that focuses on the development of the Caribbean region, but village by village.
4. Buy a farm in Guyana and build a laboratory that will focus on the healing properties of our regional fruits
5. Enter active politics. You might wonder why I need money to do that. Well, sometimes it is better to say “no” to an offer and nos come easier when you are self-sufficient. As the old folk would say, God bless the child that’s got his own. I also only know of one successful grassroots politician in the Caribbean.
What motivated you to complete undergraduate studies in psychology, given that you had such a deep love for journalism and communications?
This story makes no sense. Journalism helped me to understand how to effectively share my information with the masses. It taught us to work as though there was only one viewer or listener or reader. Psychology helped me to understand myself and others on such a deep level! How can I share with the masses if I am unsure about myself?
It was a painful programme to complete because I had so many issues and questions about life. I wanted to become a sexual psychotherapist with a TV show. I got so close to studying overseas!
I was accepted in Canada, in New Zealand and in the United States, but I had no money. I knew no one who could be a reference for me at the Student Revolving Scheme. Twice I got to the final rounds for National Development Scholarships but the panel selected economists and educators.
So I accepted my fate and went to study the only subject that UWI offered that could get me in the direction I wanted to go.
I even got into the top psychology institute in the US, but, again, a lack of finances blocked my path.
I knew that what I was learning and about to learn would be powerful enough to shift the Caribbean. I can see no better journalist than one who understands people.
Those who know you well, know of your love for volunteerism. Where did this love start?
My mother. She just loved everybody. Here is one example. I saw her take a child off the street in the neighbourhood who was five years old and not yet in school. She fed and clothed him, taught him to count and to say his ABCs. Mum loved the undesirables and the repeat offenders. She would sit on the front step of our chattel house and counsel them, and share the love of God.
She understood something that I am now grasping: that poverty makes people base and primal, and causes humans to do anything, even the despicable which they would never normally consider. If we don’t help the poor, the cycle will never stop.
What was your involvement with the Richard Stoute Teen Talent competitors and CARIYOUTH Foundation?
I was honoured in 2007 to lead a workshop on Destiny And Purpose for the Richard Stoute Teen Talent contestants and their parents. That same year, Mrs Annette Maynard Watson invited me to The Christ Church Foundation School to do a presentation on Leading In Your Little Corner. That one workshop was wonderful because I saw the eyes of children open to possibilities of being confident in leading others, even if it meant going against the crowd.
Tell us about the SAY Yes Youth Programme and the Pillsbury Collaborative Village, Minnesota, United States, and your connection.
SAY Yes is a community project run by various unconnected churches all over the United States. It is a best practice model that targets at-risk children who need to be in a controlled environment of care after school and on weekends.
In St Paul I worked with a small group of adults who gathered children from the worst part of the city, many of whose parents were incarcerated or hooked on drugs. We met on Monday evenings for maths and English, on Fridays for games, food, worship and devotions, and on some Saturdays for counselling and family intervention.
These children were hungry and distracted by poverty, drugs and crime. Many of them had lost their innocence by age seven and were tough as nails.
I was only there for one year, but the programme is great for longitudinal studies because these men and women in SAY Yes stick with these children through juvenile hall and probation and reunification with parents, becoming like family.
The Pilsbury Collaborative Village is a block of housing units that looks very similar to the Government housing at Valerie. What I saw there proved to be the biggest culture shock of my life. It was built by the Minnesota state government and Pilsbury to accommodate chronically homeless families. What are chronically homeless people? Families who have been living
on the streets for two generations or more!
I never heard of families where the grandmother was on the streets, the son was under a bridge and now his children are being raised in alleys or shelters. As a child I was embarrassed because I had an outdoor latrine, but at least I had a home and a light switch, curtains and a pillow to lie on.
These families had no idea what it meant to be a good neighbour or how to keep a home clean and tidy. Respect and table manners don’t matter on the streets. There is no dignity on the streets.
Our team went in once per week or twice –– where we had time –– to teach the children from age three to 15 reading, using phonics; spelling; maths; science; table manners; conflict management; hair braiding; the correct way to brush your teeth; and basic hygiene.
I cried every day I went to that place. Over the four months I spent with those children, I watched them go from a primal state of survival to civilians with a smile and personality. One little girl I met at age nine could never pass her subjects in school. She was so frustrated and got into fights every day!
She and I took our time and focused on maths and comprehension. She cussed me and walked out; and came back and walked out. But she always came back. After just four months, she ran to meet me and jump on me and hand me her report, which showed As and Bs. What a success story!
Why were you in El Salvador?
In 2008 I was asked by UNICEF to be a chaperone to some children for a youth journalist workshop for Latin American and Caribbean children. I was hesitant, but I went with one other delegate from Barbados. UNICEF was training them in print, radio and video production.
Over the period of four days, the children were taught basic skills in reporting, writing, recording, editing and production.
At that time the mayors of Spanish and Latin cities throughout Europe and Latin America were meeting at a nearby hotel, and we took the children to interview the politicians and produce their own reports of the conference.
I worked with the print team and lent support as best I could in English. The stories of these children, some of whom were saved from the garbage dumps in Central America and others from addiction to glue, have all informed my mindset.
What is Wailing Women Worldwide and WAY, and in what way are you connected to them?
Wailing Women Worldwide is an international intercession ministry. It is a collective of women from across denominational barriers who cry out to God weekly on behalf of the leaders, the parents, the children and anything that indicates that the nation is in trouble. I have been a member of the local chapter since 2010 and functioned as secretary.
Anyone who has a desire to intercede for the nation may visit and see if they can handle the rigours of lamentation.
In January of 2014, you started the company Merit International. Tell us about it.
Merit International is a communications and business development company I head. Our services include new media management, public relations, book writing and publishing support, content production and management, artiste management and publicist services, as well as production of media events. We add flair to the products and services our clients receive and take pleasure in the fact that the public may never know us, but they will know our work.
You are currently based in Guyana. What influenced the move “down under”?
I wanted to see what opportunities for expansion were available to me in the Caribbean. I got an instruction to go and start business in Guyana and I did just that.
I registered Merit International Guyana Ventures with my business partner there, and together we have begun drawing out the framework for new and exciting business ventures aimed at helping to develop Guyana.
The first two are Face Hair Nails, a beauty business, and Harmony King Enterprises, a music and media company. I am equally excited about both because of the social entrepreneurship model which they foster.
Finish the statement: I envision a Barbados that is . . . .
. . . The desired place in the world to raise children and have a family, free of perversion and nakedness in the streets, and with creativity and ingenuity of inventors seeping from the living rooms and garages of every community.
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