Working towards living her dream
NICOLE ALLEYNE PHILLIPS-AYIKPA has been an aesthetician, a massage therapist and a health coach, and is currently a student nurse.
This current president of the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Barbados (BPW) has worked throughout her life to build a diverse portfolio that strategically enables her to serve in areas which occupy much of her volunteer time. She devotes a significant portion of it to working to improve the lot of disadvantaged women and children in Barbados.
From Hindsbury Primary School through Coleridge & Parry to high school in Canada, she aimed to learn as much as she could about as many things as she could before deciding on a profession.
In Vancouver, where she completed her high school education, she first acquired an airline and travel industry diploma before eventually returning to Barbados to enrol at the Barbados
Community College (BCC) to study hotel management.
Phillips-ayikpa landed a job as guest services coordinator with a West Coast hotel and was soon promoted to wedding coordinator.
This opened her eyes to another career possibility when she noticed the challenges of the occasional brideto-be from time to time, who could find no one to do nails and make-up for her big day.
Nicole began filling that gap and, wanting to perfect her craft, pursued certification at Ardyce
Beauty to become a trained cosmetologist. Not satisfied to stop at that level, she returned to Canada and studied aesthetics and massages “to meet the international market”.
The programme of study, covering electrology, aesthetics and English consulting, enabled her to work more confidently in the field when she returned to Barbados and to the hotel sector afterwards.
Still this multifaceted woman was not prepared to stop there. “I decided I had the skill but I needed to get a profession, so I did rehab therapy at the Barbados Community College.”
It was a timely decision, for she was soon recruited to fill a position in the rehab field offered by the Government of St Kitts-nevis.
Unfortunately, that assignment ended prematurely, following a horrendous personal attack and robbery at her St Kitts home which resulted in her return to Barbados after just one year.
“I always wanted to be a nurse,” she said, but after continually failing in chemistry while she was studying rehabilitation therapy, she recognised the subject was a critical requirement in understanding drugs and how they interacted. “So I opted not to do it [nursing] and I did rehab therapy instead.”
At last she is on her way to completing a bachelor’s in nursing, a pursuit tinged with sadness because her late mother will not see her graduate. She was the one who had urged Nicole to “go for it” when the excited daughter called to say a nursing programme was being offered.
Her mother, an evangelist and assistant pastor, died in November 2017 and Phillips-ayikpa is still recovering from not having her around.
Mum biggest champion
“She was my biggest champion, she was my everything. The finality of her death has really taken me some time to get used to,” she said in this interview a year later.
She was one of three nursing students selected from the BCC to go to Duke University in North Carolina on a three-week programme on global research last year. This year she will be returning to Duke as an international student facilitator, taking up the scholarship she was awarded after two and a half weeks participating in that programme.
“When I look around Barbados and see the level of domestic violence that takes place, whether it is subtle or overt, the challenges that women go through, their lives have to be changed and that is what BPW means for me,” said Nicole who joined the organisation 11 years ago.
She was one of 40 women signing up for membership at a recruitment meeting to which she was invited by a friend. Only two of that group have remained.
“What solidified it for me was going to the (BPW’S) tenth shelter award ceremony . . . . It was the testimonies and the stories from the women that made me want to advocate for them,” Phillips-ayikpa said.
She readily identifies with the work BPW does, such as the advocacy for women, the efforts to secure status for the nonnational husbands of women in Barbados, and the contribution to the task force on human trafficking.
From all indications, most dear to her heart is the administration of
the BPW’S Shelter For Battered Women.
“Making sure that the livelihood of that woman is secure not just from a shelter structure perspective, but also from a health care perspective is important to me. Once in our care, we provide counselling; we provide medical care through the assistance from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the polyclinics, Sandy Crest Medical Centre. Being able to participate actively and be a part of that conversation where health care is concerned, then you have got my attention.”
The stepmother to “one fantastic angel” is also wife to Ghanaianborn, long-time Barbados resident Jutta Phillips-ayikpa, whom she met while doing a vaccination programme at the business place where he worked.
She is strong in her belief about the place of a nurse in society. “If I had a wish list for the current administration, my two requests would be that nurses sit on boards of organisations, and nurses be part of the school system. You cannot have health care unless you have a nurse, so I am happy that this new administration is looking to have nurses to be health practitioners to give them some more autonomy.”
She sees nurses in schools as a “win win” situation for both parents and for government. As coowner of a health communication and health education company which provides medical education for health care professionals on the island, she also suggests nurses in the boardroom would serve to promote a much more fit workforce.
Nicole was also vice president on the board of BPW and is nearing the end of her two-year term as president. Having seen the organisation through a difficult period when funding declined directly as a result of Barbados’ poor economic situation, she is however gratified that the club still managed to attract new funders and win assistance from new quarters during her tenure.
“The value of membership of BPW is you get to experience Barbados on a different level. The exposure you get, the ability to serve and the satisfaction derived from knowing that you are making a difference in a woman’s life are more than enough reason to want to be associated with the organisation,” she added.
PRESIDENT OF THE BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL WOMEN’S CLUB, Nicole Alleyne Phillips-ayikpa, discussing the different career hats she has worn.
ASSUMING HER “STEPMUM” ROLE, Nicole Alleyne Phillips-ayikpa (centre) out doing the rounds with stepson Aiden Phillips-ayipka and his friends Jean-luc Marville, Jean-pierre Marville andNaomi Weekes.