When hairdresser Selina Tomasich was holidaying in the Philippines back in 2010, she had a conversation with Sisters working with abandoned children on the streets of Manila whose parents were too poor to feed them. The Sisters took the children to a secure location to help in their physical, spiritual and medical needs, hoping to return them to their parents who were usually living in slums or on the streets themselves. What the parents really needed, said the Sisters, was a new skill that they could turn into a job. When Selina asked, what skill they taught the Sisters said, “Oh, we’re no good at that part, but our dream is to start a sewing centre.”
Selina, an Academic at the Sunshine Coast University, returned to Australia with inspiration and gathered a few students, two seamstresses and an assortment of machines and returned to Manila. Within two weeks seventeen people had been taught to sew, so the following year Selina returned with more volunteers. When asked what other skills would be useful, the locals responded, “hair cutting”.
Once again Selina returned home to Australia and assembled a group of volunteer hairdressers to join her next trip. The hair cutting training really took off and in 2013 Selina formally established Hair Aid as a non-profit in Australia to provide free hair cutting training for people living in critical poverty by recruiting volunteer hairdressers from all around the world.
From humble beginnings, Hair Aid now has seven international projects a year, and 20+ hairdressers at a time come on each project. Twice a year Hair Aid travels to the Philippines and Cambodia and once a year to Indonesia. At the start of this year Hair Aid began travelling to Thailand and hope to expand to Vietnam for projects also.
Training is often held under a tree, on a basketball court or wherever there is space for people willing to learn. In five days, the locals can learn five basic cuts and with their newfound skills, and donated hair-cutting kits, soon open their own businesses and happily start to live healthier and happier lives with their families.
More recently, Hair Aid started a new program, operating within Australia, to recruit and co-ordinate volunteer hairdressers in their local communities and support those that need a hand. Through this program, Hair Aid has helped people from all works of life including those experiencing homelessness, victims of domestic violence and refugees or migrants.
This Thursday, we give a big shout out to Selina and all those giving their time to provide hair cuts and/or training both here in Australia or overseas. As they say, you really are helping the world one hair cut at a time.
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick.