As the owner of the James Alan Salon & Spa in Shoreline, Washington, Matthew Fairfax shares the same concerns as any other salon owner—how to create fabulous and repeatable experiences for clients, how to inspire and motivate staff, and how to give back to the local community. But four years ago, at the urging of a staff member he met for coffee with a client who opened his eyes to a global need and a unique gift he had to offer. That meeting changed the course of his life, and he expects it to change the course for many others as he launches the Justice and Soul Foundation. Here, Matthew blogs about the journey…
"I'm sorry, but no! We only do local charity work. I don't even know where Cambodia is!" That was me in 2008 after my stylist April told me about work that our client Carol Korpi was doing in Cambodia. She said they really needed help in the cosmetology arena. Up until that point, our charitable focus (and it was a strong one) was concentrated within our little world of Seattle. April insisted that, because Carol was a client, the least I could do is have coffee with her. Drinking coffee is risky business. Less than four years later, I have been to Cambodia three times and am making plans to move there in June of 2013 for two or three years.
Why? Because 30,000 young women under the age of 18 are being forced into the sex trafficking nightmare. Some of these girls are as young as six years old and have more ‘value.’ Cambodian folklore says that having sex with a virgin will cure your AIDS.
Why? Because I have a granddaughter who, at the time of these discussions with Carol, was barely 11 years old. By the time some of these girls in Cambodia are 11, they have spent the past several years being raped nightly and sometimes several times in one night. To walk away at this point without doing whatever I can to help heal their crushed souls is not an option.
Why? Because I have an expertise that I believe can help to restore these precious lives and stop the vicious cycle, and I believe that the beauty industry can too. Without the ability to make a living and the self-esteem that comes with it, the odds are very high that the girls will end up back on the street or in the brothels, and the abuse cycle will continue.
Shortly after the visit with Carol, my salon team was behind the new vision. Not only that, but one of my teammates, Lauren Ebright, had already been working to stop sex trafficking and help survivors in Cambodia. She was thrilled that we were on the same page. With Lauren's prompting, she and I booked a flight to Cambodia in 2009. After ten days of meetings, visiting with survivors of sex trafficking, and pushing through the culture shock of third world poverty, our plan to change the world one life at a time had begun.
After two more trips and many long strategic planning sessions, Lauren and I created the Justice & Soul Foundation and designed a sustainable model to help teach sex trafficked survivors the art of cosmetology and esthetics. Our plan is to open a school and high end salon in Phnom Penh by June of 2014, targeting the wealthy Cambodian women as our clients. With the help of volunteer stylists, our custom tailored curriculum and a number of partnerships in Cambodia, we will give these young women the opportunity to learn a new craft, work in either our salon or another, and eventually become the trainers themselves. Using beauty to restore inner beauty and wellbeing.
How can you help? Volunteer to teach in Cambodia. Come for two months or come for two years. The people and culture are amazing and you will grow beyond your wildest dreams. If you cannot come to Cambodia, get involved in your own community. Raise awareness and ‘adopt’ one of our girls. Every donation will be spent training and compensating the survivors and providing them with the continued psychological support needed to ensure safe and lasting reintegration.
We believe that every one of these girls is precious and deserves to be loved and feel beautiful from the inside out. Let's take this opportunity to share our gifts and make a significant impact on their lives.
Matthew Fairfax is the Co-Founder of Justice & Soul Foundation, President/CEO of James Alan Salon & Spa in Shoreline, Washington and a national trainer and speaker with Northern Torch Consulting and Context International. He can be reached at matthew@NorthernTorch.com.