Her love affair with breast care and health all started when she needed a bra at nine. Some decades later, that love has driven Nicole Joseph-Chin passionately toward her calling. And now this author, blogger and female empowerment guru is not just touching lives, she is changing them one bra at a time.
At Ms Brafit, breast health and wellness is taken seriously. Whether a client is full figured, has sensitive skin, spinal issues or a mastectomy, director/founder Joseph-Chin ensures comfort and optimum service. So extensive is her research in the field of breast health that research material and academic papers in her organisation's studies on breast care were delivered at Oklahoma University, where soon she will be a feature speaker at an international medical conference.
Joseph-Chin is as busy-bodied as she is charming. Throughout her interview with the T&T Guardian, the Caribbean's expert in bra and mastectomy fitting darted back and forth to check up on her clients, who came for either a bra fitting or to purchase one.
Her establishment at 10 Queen's Park West, Port-of-Spain, is frequented by clients ranging from the woman in the boardroom to the housewife. The former bank manager is US board-certified, with training in post-mastectomy care and prosthetic fittings from reputable post-surgical care corporations in the US and Europe. Her products are attractive as well as clinically designed for breast health and wellness.
These custom-made bras have been a woman's best friend since Joseph-Chin started the business out of her Santa Cruz home 14 years ago. It is no wonder she has attained many accolades over the years from various institutions that support women's health. She is almost like family to the T&T, American and St Lucian cancer societies, and other support groups with whom she has volunteered.
Among the many certificates that embellish the wall behind her desk is a little love note from former CNN Early Start co-anchor Zoraida Sambolin, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and had a double mastectomy. She thanked Joseph-Chin for creating the Treatment Companion Book which she believes every woman should invest in to track her health and medical status.
Last year, Joseph-Chin was chosen by international women's advocacy group Vital Voices Global to be its lead flag bearer for T&T. The NGO–founded in 1997 by former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and then First Lady Hilary Clinton–trains and empowers women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe.
"I was one of 330 participants of the Global Fellowship 2015. I was nominated by Vital Voices to participate in the leadership fellowship programme. I was the only Trinidadian on that fellowship," she said.
The fellowship programme was funded by the UK Government in collaboration with Vital Voices out of Washington DC. It was because of her work in women's health and in bra fitting, breast and mastectomy care for women that Joseph-Chin was selected.
Joseph-Chin, as the CEO of her company, was granted a full one-year fellowship which included studies on developing educational programming. While there, she provided services as well as shared best practices, and enjoyed activities which included a seminar in Argentina involving a peer exchange (seven out of 330 were chosen to go to that exchange).
But above all this, she noted the sisterhood that was formed among these women leaders at the fellowship.
"You know how we always talk about women bashing each other? But meeting all those women–I cannot begin to tell you about the sisterhood and the bonds that we have developed. I can pick up the phone at any time and talk to one of my sisters," said Joseph-Chin in a cheerful tone.
She added: "I often laugh about it because I tell myself while it's daylight in their country, I have to switch on my light to talk to them, but the light is so prophetic and much bigger than we are. It is a big something. I cannot really explain it, but that light is more than just a physical light or daylight. It is what we bring to each other's lives. And what I have been really excited about doing is sharing that same light with women in my own country."
She said as social entrepreneurs, these women in leadership roles run their enterprises on the premise that they serve people–but they also give back, in money, time, and also as an expression of what they have developed.
Joseph-Chin, as the local face of Vital Voices Global through her company Ms Brafit, collaborated with Vital Voices Global and the US Embassy T&T last year to stage the first Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk in T&T. The walk was also supported by the Soroptomist Club of Port-of-Spain.
The annual event comes around just in time to commemorate International Women's Day, which is celebrated three days later on March 8. Happening in 52 countries, the concept for the Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk came from American media icon, founder and former CEO of Oxygen Media, Geraldine Laybourne, who wanted to empower young women professionals in New York City and across the US.
Since the walk began in 2008, it has reached thousands of women in over a dozen countries. Last year alone, it brought together 7,200 women at 73 walks worldwide.
Joseph-Chin said the first walk here was a success.
"It was a lovely experience last year, (although) we planned the walk in literally three weeks...We really saw a lovely outpouring of women interested in mentoring...the walk is really about mentorship, sharing good advice and good stories." Joseph-Chin praised US Embassy head of cultural affairs Stephen Weekes for being good masculine support last year, as he came with his daughter for the walk.
She said the aim is to always have no more than 20 mentors and mentees for the walk, and general supporters and people who can share discussions. The walk in 2015 attracted 60 to 70 people, she said, and began with a mini-symposium at her office on leadership, mentorship and women's issues.
This year it will begin the same. But new this year is international women's advocacy entertainment group, Girl Be Heard.
According to its website www.girlbeheard.org, Girl Be Heard creates a world for young women to find strength, realise their potential, and rise above their circumstances and society's expectations of them. It uses theatre as its vehicle to empower young women to become brave, confident, socially conscious leaders and explore their own challenging circumstances.
Girl Be Heard will be conducting a dialogue at Ms Brafit with stakeholders on March 5, before joining in the Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk around the Queen's Park Savannah, to begin at 4 pm.
�2 MORE INFO: For more information on the Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk, visit Facebook.com and search: Ms Brafit. Or call 689-3083. You can also send emails to in[email protected]brafit.com.