Introducing April's Hope Hero!
Nicole Owuor is an incredible woman filled with grace, wisdom, conviction, and an energy that radiates and ripples to others. She is making a difference in the community and using her gifts in glorious ways! It is an honor to have her as our Hope Hero this month!
As part of our monthly feature, we dive deep into a Q&A style interview with our Heroes of Hope. Nicole shared what was on her heart with us, and I was blown away by her responses. Keep reading to get to know Nicole a bit more - I promise you will be glad you did!
Congratulations, Nicole! You are an amazing light in this world, and you deserve to be recognized for all you do and for all you are!😊
Q: How do you define Hope?
A: Hope is the audacity to imagine a possibility and the courage to actualize that vision. It’s a belief in what “could” be that convicts you and stubbornly remains - even if it's only as small as a mustard seed – when doubt overwhelms you.
Q: What gives you Hope or inspires you?
A: I’m inspired by truth tellers! The hope of unraveling the thread of racism in our world will only happen when we start telling the whole truth about how deeply rooted it is. You can’t have Hope without Truth, child. That would be delusion! Some truths are hard, painful, and heavy; and left unspoken they trap a mind, a family, or a community. We are in a moment of reckoning when so many racial Truths are being told and that’s the key in remembering who we collectively are and “re-membering” our fractured communities. I’m so inspired by the legacy of truth we’ve inherited from activists before us and the truths we are realizing in this generation. Truth telling always requires vulnerability, often requires sacrifice, and sometimes requires periods of isolation when we have to stand alone. When I see people stand in the gap and speak up in honesty about their experiences and histories that they learn, I see a bravery that inspires me. When I see that truth lead people to come together in community, that fills my heart.
Q: Can you tell us about a time you didn’t feel hopeful & what got you through it?
A: I live with Depression and experienced my first season of Depression when I was 15 years old. I remember closing my eyes and trying my hardest to envision something outside of the darkness and sadness that I felt. I had always been a hopeful, imaginative and creative person, but when I tried to envision my future self I couldn’t. It was frightening and disheartening to close my eyes and see nothing in my future. A blankness. This was my first lesson in faith. I had to believe in something I could not see: a vision of a continued, joyous life which Depression and Anxiety made me imaginatively unqualified to see. Despite the mountain of doubt and cynicism that said “give up”, I reached out for help, I went to different therapists throughout the years until I found one who understood me and helped me start seeing out of the haze of Depression. In addition to the mental health resources that I added to my toolkit, I learned to cultivate Joy wherever I was rather than seek it. Once I changed that perspective, that peace has never left me since.
Q: What is your favorite book or movie/TV show?
A: My favorite book/movie since I was 4 years old is Matilda. I saw so much of myself in her character. There’s a passage that has stuck with me and given me a sense of Hope and Belonging throughout my entire life.
“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”
Q: How about your favorite quote and/or Bible verse?
A: You were born for such a time as this - Esther 4:14.
Q: What’s the last song you heard that made you sing along to it?
A: Act Like You Know - LaShun Pace. I listen to it and belt it out every single morning with a minimum of one praise dance break haha.
Q: Can you tell us about what you do in the community or for work?
A: I started my own business several years ago as an Experience Strategist. I help individuals and organizations distill overwhelming experiences in actionable steps by providing the tools and resources to envision and implement change. I’ve used my personal and professional experiences and neuroscience background to provide holistic support. I’ve worked with students struggling to navigate social and academic pressures, allies growing boldly in anti-racism, young professionals navigating transitions in adulthood, you name it! When I’m not coming alongside my clients, I lead workshops and speak to audiences about Imposter Syndrome, Pluralistic Ignorance, and my 4 steps in overcoming these experiences in our lives. I juggle this work on top of my day job in clinical software, by the Grace of God!
Q: What part of the work you do brings you the most fulfillment or joy?
A: I love seeing someone who was previously overwhelmed start to feel empowered. I feel fulfilled when I come alongside clients and throughout our calls I see a furrowed brow that says “I don’t know how I’m going to do this” transform into eyes that light up and say “I CAN do this!”. I also feel so humbled and purposeful when I speak at engagements and see the nods and captivation in the audience. When they have come up to me after a talk and say “Nicole, that’s exactly how I feel….I just never had the words until I heard you speak” I know I am doing exactly what I'm meant to and delivering the message God placed in my heart to steward over.
Q: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. I graduated from Temple with a degree in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience and decided after graduation that I no longer wanted to go to medical school. I gave myself the grace to pursue a new dream and enter the wilderness of entrepreneurship.
Q: Who is/are your biggest role model(s) and why?
A: I know this is very general but my role models are Black Women:
- Black female authors like Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou who helped me give language to my own experiences as a Black woman that I couldn’t articulate without their work. They loan me the courage to share my experiences unapologetically.
- Black female liberators like Harriet Tubman who oral history says prayed over every direction (left vs right, pause and rest vs keep moving) to take when travelling the underground railroad. Her example reminds me that God will faithfully reveal every step of my path for me…even it is only one moment, or one day at a time.
- Every day Black women who came before me whose names I’ll never know. A few years ago I read a newspaper archive about a city ordinance in North Carolina that forced all Black women to be employed as a domestic and factory worker. When I feel pressure to “work twice as hard for half the recognition,” their memory reminds me that I deserve the dignity of having my work valued, and that I have the right to access ease and rest whenever I need it. I carry all these women equally with me and as I learned from Dr. Angelou, I call on them when I need to embody these lessons. I close my eyes and say a simple prayer of strength: “come with me”. That’s how I discern my path and honor myself every day.
Q: What is a motto you live by or love?
A: “To Love is to: Respect, Protect and Correct” Dr. Cornell West
I live by this as my definition of Love and it anchors me.
- Because I love myself, I must always respect and protect myself from disrespect, physical and emotional harm. I have no tolerance for people’s abuse and I no longer betray myself and my needs for the sake of acceptance from others.
- Because I love others, I’m compelled to always fight for their dignity and protection. That gives me courage when I’m afraid to speak up since my love for others is greater than my fear.
- Seeing correction as a form of love enables me to access empathy and compassion for those who aren’t being loving, respectful or kind. Too often, we conflate “loving” these people as having to be complicit in their behavior or having to accept their mistreatment. To ‘love your enemy”, for me, means calling them higher and checking wrongdoing because I believe they can know better and do better.
Q: What word did you find first in the Hope/Love logo?
A: Love 😊
Know someone else who is making a positive impact in the world? Nominate them!
Every month, a new Hope Hero is featured by Hope is the way, Love is the answer. This inspiring individual is selected among those nominated, given a spotlight shout out, and awarded with a $50 gift card toward anything on the website! Anyone can nominate anyone (including themselves) by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or filling out the “Contact” form on the website!😊