The first step is sometimes the hardest but when it came to kicking off this Grenada 40 under 40 journey, it was a no-brainer that Nigel Mathlin was the first Grenadian we wanted to profile. Why? Because Mathlin, as both an entrepreneur and a social activist, is a clear shaper of the tomorrow, a purveyor of delightfully disruptive innovation.
From where we sit Now Grenada, which is barely a year old, has been a game changer in the field of Grenada online media outlets. The news website delivers quality news from Grenada to a global audience.
The site has more than achieved its goal to develop a platform where communities can share and discuss information and its aim to “encourage critical discussion and engaging debate and to help find solutions to the key issues affecting Grenadians today” is a solid example of shared value in action.
Mathlin has underpinned his commitment to social change on the specific issues of human rights and health education for LGBT, sex workers, and other marginalised populations such as persons living with HIV. In a conservative country like Grenada this takes some guts.
But enough of our opinion, read our Q&A with this talented young man and discover why he is clearly a shaper of tomorrow.
Tell us a bit about yourself – what’s your background, how would your friends describe you?
I grew up in Springs, St George with my parents, older sister and brother, and attended Sunnyside school that was on Lucas Street at the time. From there I went onto Presentation Brother’s College, and two weeks after graduating, went to work at a local printery. I did that for two years, and except for some time I spent studying in Toronto, I’ve been working with my company, aqua.gd, mainly in graphic design and web development.
How would my friends describe me? I may have to use a “call a friend” lifeline to answer that one, but hopefully they’ll say I’m a good friend, resourceful, independent, and enjoys laughing — though I’m often a hermit and stubborn 🙂
How did NOW Grenada come about and where would you like to take it next?
NOW Grenada is part of an idea that I had in 2002. It may not have worked back then, but I eventually decided to just start doing something and grow it from there. I was frustrated that it was so easy for me to access international news, but I didn’t know as much of what was going in my backyard in Grenada. I wanted to get that info where I am all the time — online.
I’m also not interested in sensationalised crime news and divisive political propaganda, and think there’s much more value in promoting development issues and community efforts. And so, after some work with my colleagues, nowgrenada.com was officially launched on 1 March 2013.
We just set up our YouTube channel a few days ago, so that’s definitely an area for a lot more development. Many more things in store, but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out what they are!
When did you get involved with GrenCHAP. What do you think can to be done to improve the situation for marginalised groups in Grenada?
Fresh out of school, I decided on HIV advocacy as my way of “giving back” to community. I volunteered with the Grenada AIDS Foundation, and had the opportunity to attend a regional meeting, where I first realised that very little or nothing at all was being done in smaller islands such as Grenada, to focus on MSM (men who have sex with men) with HIV prevention education. When I returned to Grenada, two colleagues and myself founded a group to begin some work in that area. A few years later, we officially registered the non-profit organisation, GrenCHAP. The organisation now has a broader scope in human rights and health education for LGBT, sex workers, and other marginalised populations such as persons living with HIV.
HIV is a disease, not a moral judgement. Until we truly value and celebrate diversity rather than trying to oppress it, and see our neighbours as our equal — regardless of skin tone, family name, street address, political colour affiliation (if any), house size — and yes, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and health status, among other things — then not just the marginalised persons, but the country as a whole is just “spinning top in mud”. That cultural change needs to happen at all levels.
What are some of the hurdles you’ve had to overcome in getting where you are today?
For a long time, I’ve taken pride in being a perfectionist at whatever I apply myself to. I used to think that was a great thing, but sometimes it’s better to get something done, rather than to keep holding back until it’s perfect. That’s a deeply ingrained mindset that I still struggle with. Like with many people, most of my hurdles are self-imposed, and there are always more to surpass.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
That’s a tough one to answer. Not because there are so many candidates to choose from, but rather, I consider advice to be an individual opinion, so I don’t consider it gospel — it’s up to me to listen, weigh the options, and make a decision that I’m going to have to take responsibility for.
But generally, I’d say that any advice beginning with “you have to…” would likely be bad advice. Except for, as Brother De Lellis who was once my secondary school principal has said for generations — the only thing I have to do is stay black, and die.
If you could commit to changing one issue in Grenada, what would it be?
We’re quite inspired by the phrase be the change you want to see. What does the phrase mean to you and how do you interpret it in your daily life?
That quote is usually attributed to Gandhi, although there is some debate around that. Nevertheless, it’s still a mantra that I do my best to adhere to, since complaining doesn’t achieve anything positive. We have to put in the work to make a difference. It’s starts with me — I’m getting to know myself better, and I have to work on myself while trying to tackle other things.
Where’s your favourite place to relax in Grenada?
My favourite place to relax would be at home — give me an internet connection and some music, and I’m good to go. When I get tired of that, then a walk down to the beach or running through some random forest with the Grenada Hashers is a nice invigorating break.