Even death is not a good enough excuse for giving up!

By Oral Ofori

Nicole; 3rd right, with her foster wards in Trinidad and Tobago

So here is one of my everyday heroes, it’s not Superman or Hajj Malik El-Shabazz who is also Malcolm X by the way, but it is Nicole Marchman, who at her age is a resilient, powerful and motivating foster alumni currently in a facility in Trinidad And Tobago where she is helping cater to young people in need of fostering and also helping to bring reforms to that country’s policies on children and the provision of quality and appropriate care for those in foster facilities.

Nicole has been a great a friend since the past couple year and am getting to discover more and more of her in positive ways. Nicole’s experiences in life leaves me to believe that you can’t say die until the bones are rotten.

Being the oldest of twin sisters; Jessica and Melissa who are now 21 years old, Nicole was forced to take on the singular responsibility of a “mother” figure and practically raise her sisters at an early stage in life. This role was performed very creditably despite the little experience she had about it until her unfortunate removal from it as a result of continuous physical abuse inflicted upon her and her sisters by their biological father. Nicole at that point in her life was at the tender age of 11.

Following the separation which resulted to the splitting up of the sisters, Nicole suffered severe bouts of depression which was mainly brought upon by the fact that she was unable to provide protection for her siblings. To add to her woes, she was also forced to endure seven foster homes and three group homes due to foster parents refusing to or unwilling to provide “long term” foster placements.

Miss Marchman and her twin siblings were eventually reunited when the twins were aged 15, this reunion occurred in a foster home. Sadly enough though, the foster mother was both verbally and physically abusive to the sisters. This unfortunate situation once more rekindled Nicole’s protective instincts and personality as she ever so often stepped up as the protective sister once again in defense of her younger sisters!

This continued abuse however ended up splitting the sisters again. Interestingly enough, all the harsh realities these sisters were forced to endure and grapple with did not break them; it rather built up their resilience and established among them what Nicole herself describes as ”an unbreakable bond of sisterhood”. Nicole will do anything for her sisters in a heartbeat and has actually done that on countless occasions.

An example of the above happened when at 24, Nicole appeared before a federal judge in the USA in her quest to obtain legal custody of her twin sisters, who were 15 years old at the time. Nicole knew of the challenges an action like this was going to bring upon her as she sought to play the role of parent to her sisters. This notwithstanding, she was bent on sticking by her guns because parenting was something that came naturally to her.

Today Nicole has proven her skeptics wrong by displaying how strong-willed her spirit is and how so ready she is to stay her grounds in the face of enormous adversities that can easily break others down and rob them of motivation. Nicole has gone on to defy the odds by obtaining her Associates degree in the Arts; Bachelors degree in Social Work from the University of South Florida and is now in hot pursuit of a Masters degree in Social Work with a focus on Child Welfare Policy at the Florida State University.

This friend of mine portrays a true foster alumni advocate by serving in the position of Deputy Intern Coordinator & Child Welfare Associate with the US Senate Committee on Finance in Washington, D.C. where she also dabbled as a policy analyst and researcher with the National Collaboration for Youth in Washington, D.C.

Not stopping there, Miss Marchman goes further to exhibit her strong youth advocacy tendencies by working as a relief youth counselor with the National Youth Crisis Hot line with Alternative House, a body championing the cause of disadvantaged and or abused youth. It is obvious to all at this point that Nicole Marchman is, in her own words, ”on a mission to bring reform to the foster care system” both in the USA and in Trinidad And Tobago where she is presently situated.

She’s done this by completing a Foster Alumni of America advocate leadership training and educating legislators in the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland about foster care and its current need of emergency help to reshape the system and indeed the entire USA’s perception of it. Nicole is also scheduled to travel to Prague where she intends to complete a child welfare international class through the Florida State University while working in an orphanage (June-July 2011). Miss Marchman is also completing a five month field placement at a Trinidad And Tobago orphanage. Nicole refuses to allow her past hurts to cripple her present and future mission!

Well to all those like Nicole who have had it tough or even tougher, I say thank you for still keeping your heads up high. To you my dear reader, are you going to stand around and cry because you don’t have shoes when the crippled man with amputated legs don’t even have legs for shoes, or are you going to get off your behind and start living the life you know you were really brought here to live? The choice is yours.

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