Manitoulin-based life online radio station sharing music, love and cultural diversity

Theresa Phiri, in photo, is the founder of Life Online Radio station, which has been launched in the Gore Bay area.

GORE BAY – Billed as Manitoulin’s first online-only radio station, Life Online Radio station webcasting from the Gore Bay area has over 28,000 online visitors to date. “The response has exceeded expectations,” said founder Theresa Phiri. “I didn’t think it would take off like that.”

Ms. Phiri, whose online name is Captain Teri P, has lived on Manitoulin for a few years now. After moving to Toronto from Botswana in 2008 she spent several years working for online radio stations there and has previously worked at other radio stations. She has also owned a day spa after acquiring a diploma in Esthetics to be a skin therapist. She worked for Dove Spas, a top British spa located in Toronto that later closed their Canadian locations. That led her to a teaching position at Avola Hairdressing and Esthetics School, also in Toronto.  Along the way she obtained a bachelor’s degree in commerce, with a major in industrial psychology and a minor in economics in order to follow her entrepreneurial dreams. 

Ms. Phiri moved to the Island in 2018 and is currently working as a personal support worker at Manitoulin Lodge in Gore Bay. “I fell in love with the Island right away,” she told the Recorder. “I have never seen so much snow in my life! I fell in love with the people and the community.”

With COVID-19 and the initial lockdown last April, Ms. Phiri ended up with two weeks to herself. “I had time on my hands for the first time in years. I didn’t have to get up and go anywhere. That was total bliss for me. I found I could paint. I meditated and got in touch with my soul. I was speaking with a friend when I had the revelation to start my own radio station,” she said. “I got thinking about it and managed to start this radio station. With people at home and spending more time on social media due to the pandemic, it was a great opportunity to catch the interest of people and to harness my journalism skills.”

Ms. Phiri works full-time at the Lodge in addition to running the station. Following an eight hour shift that ends at 10:30 pm, she works at the station from 11:30 pm until 3:30 am. As studio manager she performs internal maintenance, programming, scheduling and researching as well as other tasks, all self taught, but she’s not complaining. “It has always been my dream to run my own online radio station,” she said. “I am inspired by Oprah Winfrey. It takes a lot of passion and time.”

She also manages nine volunteers in remote locations. “They can broadcast from wherever they are. I receive material from them and schedule it according to their program.”

The main objective of the station is to build a positive mentality across a global community by sharing engaging, real-life stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. “Life is diverse and mysterious and so are the days of our lives,” she explained. “As a radio station, it is our sole interest to engage in iterations of different cultural and musical backgrounds from all corners of the world.”

“Basically, the Life Online Radio Station vision is to bring a sense of instrumental foundations of music, cultural diversity and inclusion that can inspire, educate, motivate, encourage, enlighten and most of all, entertain our listeners from all walks of life.”

“Life Online is about spreading love through music and other inspirational programs. Our dream is for our radio station to be the preferred online radio station on Manitoulin Island, where it was birthed and introduced to the world,” Ms. Phiri continued. “We are humbled to have this opportunity to be featured in one of the best media houses on the Island, one of the most beautiful islands in the world.”

She is thankful for all of the love and support the station has received on the Island. “If it wasn’t for the warm welcome and love that we received here on Manitoulin Island from the Islanders themselves, we really doubt if the inspiration to start the radio station would have come the way it did.”

She is hopeful that people will listen and join them on their journey to build the radio station together. “Let’s share the love and stories with the world. It’s times like these that we call on each other and hold each other accountable and step up for each other,” she noted. 

“We want to infuse love, to encourage people to have a positive attitude. Life Online is meant to inspire through whatever lesson people need at this time and to provide people with the opportunity to see cultures from all over the world,” Ms. Phiri said.

Programming is quite varied and includes After Midnight, Lovers Rock, Lose in Love, Soul to Soul, Meditations, Eastern Music, documentaries, weekend grooves, laugh out loud stand-up comedy, the Captain Teri P Show, the Whispering Drums, Poetry and Spoken Words, motivation and inspiration, classy and sassy jazz grooves, local and world news, spiritual enlightenment, the Afro Beats Junction and Children’s Storytime. 

“We are always looking to add to our programs and make them better,” she added. “For instance, we are looking at doing exclusive interviews, sports and online television. Listeners will not like everything we provide but I’m certain they will find something that they can enjoy. We eventually want to have a program just about Manitoulin Island.”

Ms. Phiri also has plans to address ongoing COVID-19 social restrictions with an option that she calls revolutionary. “People have not been able to attend events and activities like they have in the past. We will be filming weddings and posting them online,” she explained. “I will set everything up at the wedding site and for those people that can’t attend in person, they can go online to a specific site and watch the wedding in real time. We already have one set up on Manitoulin for 2021. Friends in Toronto will access the link and will even be able to send live messages during the ceremony.”

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