Work­ing to­wards liv­ing her dream

Daily Nation (Barbados) - - People - By GERCINE CARTER [email protected]­tion­

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

School of

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.

Strong be­liefs

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.

Dif­fer­ent level

“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.

(Pic­tures by Gercine Carter.)

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.

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