Restoring dignity & hope through
teaching the trade of hair
Nepal, a developing country wedged in the valley between India and China, is a trekker's paradise. You see Himalayan views, golden temples, and charming villages. It's estimated that people have been living in this region for at least eleven thousand years. Because it's between the two giants—India and China—Nepal seeks to keep a balance between the two countries and remains independent. As a result of its years of geographic and self-imposed isolation, Nepal is one of the least developed nations of the world. This poverty can be attributed to scarce natural resources, lack of education and foreign aid rarely going to the neediest sectors.
I was asked to go to Nepal in the spring of 2017. I was told about a need within an organization—called Nepali House—that is doing work with women and children who had been horrible exploited and rescued out of human trafficking. They were slaves, modern-day slaves. This is still happening! And it boggles my mind how it is still going on in every country around the world. The need I was asked to fill was to come and help train some of the girls who are interested in learning how to work in a hair salon as a stylist. This was my industry, my specialty. It was easy to say an enthusiastic, "Yes!"
I went on an exploratory trip in March 2018 where I leaned in and learned everything I could about the organization and those running it. We trained for four long days and did staff's hair for another two days. I learned stories of those rescued and the hell they had to live through. I learned about young girls—my own daughter's age—being sold off to help their families survive. I learned of a grandmother who was in the trafficking ring that gave her granddaughter hormones to mature her and get her ready and primed for the brothel she was about to be put in. I learned of girls stuck in these horrific situations for four to six years servicing 30 men a day. The families where tricked, the pimps where brainwashing and the children born in these environments are innocent. They grow up so desensitized they believe they are participating in or watching play happen. I learned of boys left on the streets as young as five. The thought of this continuing without intervention nearly killed me. My heart was broken and I was forever changed.
As I watched the leaders of the organization love the women and children out of what they had come through, I saw something magical happen. I saw girls that had no hope for a future start dreaming. I saw girls rescued years before as loving leaders of the homes with joy in their eyes. I saw men come into the room and respect the women and children and tear down past walls that once stood high. I saw restoration. I saw women that had freedom and children being provided for physically and receiving an education. I heard stories of all the women who were successfully reintegrated into normal life and no longer lived within those walls they had built to protect themselves.
My second trip was in March 2019 and I went prepared. I brought three stylists who could help in the training centre. I brought products and equipment that Nepal didn't have access to. We had eight full days of training from cutting to barbering to updo's and bridal styling to color theory and placement. We packed in as much as we could knowing we had eight days to unload our brains and help inspire and propel our students forward. Nothing was forced. Each girl in the class was there because they desired to learn. With note pads out they took down everything they could. Thankfully, English wasn't too hard for most to understand because our Nepalese is awful! The women dream of one day owning a hair salon and being the best in Katmandu. They dream of successfully finishing a year in hair school. They dream dreams like you or I but, unfortunately, they don't have the resources to successfully achieve those dreams. This is where my fire is burning now. I'm all in and completely committed to continuing my training relationship until I'm no longer needed. However, to work in their country they need a license from their country which means they need to attend the 12-month course with government licensing. Each girl's tuition is $3,400.00. Much like our industry at home, the dream for a salon in the most prominent area is completely achievable with this schooling and continued advancements.
As I spoke with the women leaders running this side of the organization, I heard the pain and frustration of trying to fundraise money for different college and university placements for the men and women. They rely heavily on money coming from outside Nepal. They want to create a business model that the training centre remains the starting ground for anyone wanting to get into hair styling. Showing the desire to be learning in the training centre will get you into hair school. The salon will open with some of our first students who will work in both the training centre—inspiring the next generation and teaching what they know—and also working in the salon taking clients from government diplomats to exploring travelers. The profits from the salon will pay the stylists first and then go back into the organization's Nepali House. The money made in Nepal will be staying in Nepal helping fund future stylists to go to school, help fund rescues, help fund the daily, monthly, yearly costs associated with raising over 150 people.
It's hard to believe this type of life growing up in a middle-class family in B.C. but it exists and knowing it now means I can be part of making a difference. Imagine a world with no slavery. Imagine a world where education and opportunities are available to all. Imagine a world where sex is not bought, where women are valued for who they are, and not what they can provide for a moment. Where slavery is only in the history books not a present-day problem.
Over the next 2 years we will be organizing fundraising efforts to aid in the financial costs of opening a salon for these much deserving girls. If you or someone you know might be interested in this initiative please contact Steph@mystiquehairdesign.com.
- Stephanie Wright