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Hair Aid: The Global Organization Teaching Cutting Skills to Impoverished Communities

Maggie Mulhern | September 26, 2018 | 8:46 AM
Tabatha Coffey teaches haircutting techniques in Cambodia while volunteering with Hair Aid.
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Tabatha Coffey (lower left) with Selina Tomasich (in glasses) and other Hair Aid volunteers.
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The community in Cambodia recently visited by Tabatha Coffey while working with Hair Aid.
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Hair Aid's Camobian graduating class with volunteers.
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Selina Tomasich and Tabatha with Granny Thim Theang, the "adopted" granny to many in her community.
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Tabatha Coffey teaches haircutting techniques in Cambodia while volunteering with Hair Aid.
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The community in Cambodia recently visited by Tabatha Coffey while working with Hair Aid.
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It’s inspiring news when we learn about someone with fame who puts that high recognition factor to good use. Think Paul Newman with Newman’s Own food company (to benefit education and summer camps for ill children,) Oprah Winfrey (to benefit orphans and young women in Africa,) Bono (to  fight hunger and poverty worldwide) and Angelina Jolie (various charities to eradicate poverty.) It’s even more wonderful when a member of our own community puts her fame to use to make the world a better place.

Tabatha Coffey (yes – OUR Tabatha) has found the time and energy to bring attention to Hair Aid, the Australian based non-profit designed to teach haircutting skills, through the expertise of professional hairdressers, to the people living in impoverished communities in third world countries. Tabatha recently volunteered for a training session in Cambodia and describes the experience as “life changing” after working with the needy residents which included several former sex slaves. Says Tabatha, “It’s not about making them hairdressers like we are, but it’s about a transfer of knowledge and skill so that they can go out and start making money right away. Utilizing these skills can put food on the table and keep families together. It is the difference of life and death, literally.” 

Hair Aid is the brainchild and passion project of Selina Tomasich, an academic teaching business at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. In 2010 she founded Hair Aid with a vision to create livelihood empowerment training for people living in critical poverty with a secondary goal of providing hands-on learning for students. “Our volunteer hairdressers teach our five day hair cutting course, that gives the skill to cut basic haircuts,” Tomasich says. So far Hair Aid has been doing this work in the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia. “Our Hair Aid projects have been gathering momentum over the last eight years and in 2019 our projects will expand to Thailand and Vietnam.”

With a target to train 3500 ladies every year, Tomasich adds, “We need more volunteers and we would love to get more stylists from the United States on board.” Tomasich has had considerable interest from American stylists (especially from those who have been watching Tabatha’s journey on her own social media sites,) and says that “Hair Aid can only do what it does with the support of the hairdressing industry. I’m keen to harness the passion from American hairdressers so that we can work together, create value, and provide a pathway out of  clinical poverty and extreme circumstances for many ladies trapped in the prostitution and drug gang industry. I’m calling on American stylists is to help us achieve this. Hair Aid can’t do it without you.”

Tabatha says that people ask her all the time how to get involved. “The first thing about giving back is taking action. We don’t have to raise a lot of money or give a lot of time - you just need to be committed. My experience in Cambodia taught me that to make a big impact you don’t need to do a lot of really big things. To realize something as simple as learning how to hold a scissor, how to do a basic layer, a graduation, or a clipper cut will change lives is extraordinary.” Tabatha points out that it’s not giving it away, it’s sharing. “That is what our industry is all about. When you share in a philanthropic way, it empowers and allows people to feel loved, wanted, secure, and encouraged. It helps them have a better life.”

When it comes to giving back, Tabatha points out that just doing it is the most important thing. “Decide what you are passionate about and then find out what you can do. Sometimes it’s as easy as donating your time. The biggest thing about us is that we that we make people feel good all the time and through the skill of hairdressing and sharing, we can impact lives."

When pressed to summarize how it has altered her as a person, Tabatha says, "Being part of the Hair Aid project has changed my life. I was able to share my skill not only to help give someone the ability to start a business, but give a gift that can’t be taken away like so many of the things that have already been taken from these young rescued sex slaves. It has given me a deeper appreciation for my craft, and shown me how first hand the impact of sharing what we may take for granted has the ability to change someone’s life." 

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