“What Could I Do With My Skill?”
When Pablo Starr, editor-in-chief of Fashion Week Online asked me to share my story of my recent journey with Hair Aid, I reflected on my reasons why I joined, and the answer was: “What could I do with my skill?”
Last month I joined a team of hairdressers I’d never met before, to go to a country I’ve never been before, to do things I’ve never done before.
I joined a team of hairdressers I’d never met before, to go to a country I’ve never been before
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Why? Because I wanted to give back and I wanted to make the world a better place and I wanted to do it with the skill I have.
Hair Aid Inc., founded by Selina Tomasich, is an amazing non-profit organization that takes volunteer hairdressers into developing countries to teach individuals rescued from sex trafficking, living in critical poverty and slum conditions how to cut hair.
Hair Aid Inc. takes volunteer hairdressers into developing countries to teach impoverished individuals how to cut hair
These people live in the most appalling conditions I have ever seen. They lie in beds with no mattresses, no pillows, no sheets, no walls, no windows; their only protection from the sun can be a stolen tarpaulin, or vinyl sign.
They lie in beds with no mattresses, no walls, no windows
The entry into their home is piles of rubbish, putrid water. Food is foraged from the bins and if they are lucky enough to be linked with an NGO or charity they might get a bag of food with 1kg of rice, 1 small bottle of oil, 1 small packet to powered milk and some herbs.
Their lives are lived in critical poverty.
They have no options to earn a living, get a job, or do any training to improve their lives.
But this is what Hair Aid does. Hair Aid recruits and sends volunteer hairdressers, from all around the world, to overseas locations to provide free hair cutting training for people living in critical poverty.
The volunteer hairdressers work in teams directly with people living on the street, or slum communities, or with ladies rescued from the sex trade and prostitution gangs.
Volunteer hairdressers teach a five-day hair-cutting program, which gives the skill to cut five basic haircuts. At the end of the training each trainee gets gifted a small tool kit, with a set of shears, 1 comb, 4 section clips, a cape and a water bottle. The skill they have learned and the gifted tool kit can then be used to start a micro business and create an income to support themselves and their family. The effect on their lives is instant.
Volunteer hairdressers teach a five-day hair-cutting program
Being able to earn money to buy food, to keep themselves and their children alive is an immediate, intense ripple effect that not only change their lives, but also their communities’ lives, their children’s lives — but more importantly it will empower them to stand on their own two feet to provide for themselves.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is the philosophy that Hair Aid follows, and their goal is to “teach a person to cut hair, and they can create a pathway out of poverty.”
Joining a Hair Aid project is 100% volunteered based and each volunteer has to raise the funds to go. When you are fundraising to come on a project with Hair Aid it’s important to make sure you understand how Hair Aid operates so you can answer any questions from potential stakeholders.
Hair Aid teams work in Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines. On each project there can be 20-24 hairdressers volunteering at one time. Hair Aid teams can work in up to six locations during a project. At each location there will be between 15 and 20 people wanting to be trained.
Hair Aid employs previous trainees to come and work with them when Hair Aid teams are on the ground. These are previous trainees that know working salons over there, or running their own hair cutting business. Hair Aid has a connection with the largest hairdressing salon in Manila (David Salons) and they send staff to help us out during the training.
Once Hair Aid teams’ leave they stay in contact with the trainees.
In Manila Hair Aid have local people that Hair Aid pays a stipend to every month to stay in contact with the trainees. Catania Group International has a team that stays in contact with Hair Aid trainees and offers additional support. In Cambodia each location has a training program and the Hair Aid trainees get continued training. In the Thailand community organizations bring the trainees back every Saturday morning and as a group they are supported with group training.
Hair Aid teams go back every six months, and Hair Aid management talks regularly with the local teams over there to stay informed in case anybody needs additional training, new tools, any extra support.
I’ve worked in the beauty industry for 25 years. My roles in the industry are as a hairstylist, An Aveda hair color purefessional /educator, technical director, New York fashion week stylist, health/wellness coach and a volunteer at shelters/nursing homes. Now I proudly add Hair Aid volunteer to that list.
When asking the question, “what can I do with my skill,” the answer was aligning myself with an organization where I can create a global ripple affect, which will really change, really change, and impact a person’s life, their communities that will afford them the options they would not have had without learning a skill.
I’ve spent many years nurturing and honing my skill as a hairdresser; in return it has opened many doors of opportunities for me that would not have been possible without my skill.
When it really boils down you can have everything but without a skill things become much harder and the struggle becomes real.
When I was on the project in Pattaya, Thailand it was amazing to see the individuals that go through this five-day training blossom before my eyes. They start to have trust and to see them finally believe in themselves in what they can accomplish is incredible.
They start to have trust and finally believe in themselves
We trained ten women and two men. They each learned five haircuts and cut each haircut three times. So in five days they did fifteen haircuts, which is incredible for someone who never picked up haircutting shears or even sectioned hair before. Each trainee was graded, passed and we held a celebration ceremony to commemorate. Each trainee received a certificate of completion and a hair cutting kit, which includes cutting shears, clips, cape, spray bottle and carrying bag. The smiles on their faces were incredible to see.
The smiles on their faces were incredible to see.
We will be going back every six months to provide more ongoing training. Hair Aid continually works with local organizations to make sure the trainees are being supported and their needs met.
We didn’t just teach hair cutting. During the Thailand project we worked with different non-profit organizations doing free community haircuts for orphans, the elderly or those with disabilities or mobility challenges. We helped to deliver food to sick and dying, and medicine to slum communities and local prisons. It was an experience that changed me. It was an opportunity to use my skill of hairdressing to change someone’s life.
It was an experience that changed me
Hair Aid’s goal is to change the world one haircut at a time. To do this they need more hands, volunteers, monetary donations, hair tool donations, global and corporate sponsorships.
they need more hands, volunteers, monetary donations, hair tool donations, global and corporate sponsorships.
If you feel like joining the Hair Aid family, I promise you it will be life-changing for the trainees and you will be forever changed by the experience.
As well, non-hairdresser volunteers are welcomed on a Hair Aid projects! Everyone can provide vital support to the projects.
Please go to hairaid.org.au to join the family.
This October I will be joining Hair Aid in Thailand again and I cannot wait.
Thank you for reading my story and to Fashion Week Online for reaching out to me. To the organizations and volunteers I worked with it was an honor and absolute pleasure to share in this experience with all of you.