Nakisha Murray is on a mission to make people living in Tamarind Square, Port of Spain smile. This selfless soul is using her talent as a hairdresser to uplift the homeless---the start of her Let’s Smile Mission.
“I am T and T’s number one multi-talented hairstylist, a servant of the Lord and everything being done right now is not my work. It is God’s work,” declares 37-year-old Murray.
Her first homeless client was a friend who fell on hard times and lives on the streets.
“I started going to church and one Sunday after church I trimmed a close friend of mine, Devon who is homeless. He asked me if I could trim men and I was like yes, so I trimmed him and he was completely amazed.”
Inspired, Murray says she went to Riverside Plaza one Sunday (August 13) to help the homeless there but her spirit moved her to go to neighbouring Tamarind Square.
“I turned around and saw Tamarind Square and instead of going Riverside Plaza where there was a roof over our heads I decided to go to Tamarind Square.”
She asked if anyone wanted a trim.
“They were reluctant at first but I persisted. I went inside the square and asked again. They eventually answered me and showed me where the electricity outlet was. I went in with my kids, so they were all around playing while I set up my equipment. One guy came and started encouraging them to come get a haircut and they came. On that day, I did three haircuts. I took before and after pics and posted them on social media and they went viral.”
Her video to date has had over 9,000 views and was shared 125 times on Facebook.
Murray believes she was naturally gifted to help others look good by styling their hair. “Since I was eight-years-old I would cornrow my cousins’ hair, they would always come back for me to do so and I enjoyed that.”
Living in Belmont, Murray attended Belmont Junior Secondary School and South East Port of Spain Government Secondary School where she pursued business subjects.
“Initially my dream was to go further in business and then I had my daughter at the age of 17 and everything changed for me. I had to financially support myself and my child so I started working and saving towards starting my own salon. I took courses at Michael and Gloria Beauty Salon and School to become certified. I have been a hairdresser for the past 15 years.”
Murray is now a mother of four– Tia Murray, 19, Sanchez Hamit, 12, Tamia Murray, eight, and four-year-old Emmanuel.
“I am a single parent and my children are my pride and joy. They are hard workers.”
A Christian, Murray proclaims greatness in her life, and this affirmation has often helped her through many challenges, and now her dream is a reality. “At first I had a hair salon business named Far Rise Beauty Factory back in 2005 and I have also established Rich Girlz Empire four years now to accommodate my own hairline-- Rich Girlz Instant Dreadlocks.” Her outreach includes preaching on live stream videos.
“I started doing Facebook Live videos each morning called--Thank You Lord where I would be preaching the word of God. It has been five months now. On my live videos, I was doing it to help people, including my clients, I forgot all about myself. Little did I know I was actually speaking great things into my life,” she declares.
“If we really submit our lives to God he will give us instant breakthroughs and he will put forth a vision for your life. Ask him for the clarity to see the path he is directing you on in your life. He is ready and always willing to listen to our pleas.”
With the public noticing her good works, people came forward to assist her. Barber Keyv Young from KJ Quality Styles Unisex Barber Salon, Barataria, Nickholas May and his wife Kavita from Ultimate Barber Shop, Curepe and Brendon Adams from Freestyle Hair Salon, join her on Sundays to cut the men’s hair. Volunteers include Sian Cuffy-Young, Kafi Douglas-De Souza, Amika Mc Kenzie and Aqlimiyya Cockburn.
Laventille East/Morvant MP Adrian Leonce also came on Sunday and trimmed some of the men.
The men are deeply touched by what Murray does for them.
“I must say, the work Nakisha is doing is very satisfactory. I hope she keeps up the good work and gets the recognition and help she deserves. She will reach far,” says 52-year-old AC James.
For Anthony Pierre, 37, Murray is sharing “good vibes” by her good deeds.
“They are helping clean up the homeless while spreading good vibes through their hard work,” Pierre says after a satisfying trim.
With a growing list of people patiently awaiting their haircuts, Murray and her team of volunteer barbers and sponsors are always ready.
Gloria Castro, who returned to Trinidad after living in Maryland in the United States for 45, made a donation last Sunday.
“It is really touching to see the work that this young woman is doing. The Lord is going to bless her. Other big businesses who are capable of helping, need to come out and support this initiative,” says Castro.
Murray is still stunned by the outpouring of support since her video post.
“My first response to this initiative going viral is that I was shocked. I did not expect such an overwhelming response from the public. We need to treat displaced people like normal human beings and not just categorise them as homeless. With the help of other barbers volunteering their time we did 19 heads, thank God.”
Over recent Sundays, Murray has bonded with some of the men, among them Steve Rajkumar, Tall Boy, La Brea, Red Ras and Green Eyes, quickly learning their nicknames while giving them a transformative trim.
“When I went there the first day I listened and the homeless asked me a lot of questions. I came here to see you all smile I told them. It was about God. My initiative is to see them smile and touch their lives in a positive way. This led to the creation of Let’s Smile Mission.”
“The people living in Tamarind Square need a friend and I am being that friend to them.”
Speaking on their behalf, Murray appealed for a rehabilitation centre for the homeless where they can go for shelter and people can voluntarily teach them a trade.
“If we have the resources to do it, why not do it? We need to change their mind set with inspiring seminars because they are willing to come off the street,” she appeals.
(Last week, Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez disclosed plans to acquire land to build a centre for the homeless.)
The Let’s Smile Mission also aims at training the homeless to cut hair, as a means to reintegrate them into society and to the world of work. However, the facilities are needed to propel Murray’s mission.
“I also try to make packages for them consisting of a toothbrush, toothpaste and a jersey for all those who were our clients for the day. Things are also falling into place as well-wishers and supporters have helped supply us get tables, tents, chairs and food. I am grateful that this initiative has been able to attract a lot of support in such a short space of time.”
Murray has a concern that some may thwart her mission, disclosing her Facebook account has been hacked, forcing her to set up a new one. But she is not giving in.
“I don’t want my mission to fall into the wrong hands because it will be used for the wrong reasons. However, I hold firm to this mission. It would be extremely helpful if people can donate to us beautician materials like capes, razor blades, shampoo, large bottles of water and professional clippers. I have been able to finance this initiative thus far with new equipment and sanitisers but there is more than can be done. The mindset of receiving should be the same mind set we have when giving. Be generous and you can always volunteer with us.”
Note: To donate or volunteer contact Nakisha Murray: 370-1695