Volunteer work brings surprises.
“You want to change and impact someone, and they end up changing and impacting you more than you imagined possible,” says Lindsay Lowe, owner of Platinum & Company Beauty Bar in Manhattan, Kansas. She’s still reflecting on her week of training hairdressers in Guatemala.
“In the United States, we might say that we live paycheck to paycheck,” Lowe continues. “In Guatemala, many live day to day. They just try to get enough food to feed their family today.”
Global Stylist Scholarships
Knowing how to cut and style hair can provide a sustainable income that lifts people out of that poverty cycle. When Lindsay Lowe learned about Global Stylist Scholarship, an organization committed to training, coaching, and supporting underprivileged men and women around the world in the trade of cosmetology, she signed up to help.
Created by Mandy Pulse, owner of Salon Inspire in Kansas City, the Global Stylist Scholarship program organizes teams of hairstylists to travel to a targeted site and teach a basic hair cutting class. Industry brands have been donating supplies, and hairdressers volunteer to be part of each team.
Lowe was all set to participate in 2019 until she found out she was pregnant, and her doctor urged her to stay home. Then the pandemic halted the program. Finally in February 2022, Lowe took her talents to Guatemala to share her knowledge. She was part of a team of six stylists, plus a young journalist, training 15 Guatemalans. It was gratifying.
“Watching the hairdressers unpack their kits brought back that feeling of unpacking our kits in cosmetology school,” Lowe reports. “But it was even more exciting because, to them, it was as if they’d won the lottery.”
Stories to Remember
In Guatemala, no license or training is required to cut hair. One Global Stylist Scholarship recipient, a man named Elder, was already cutting men’s hair but applied to the program to learn to cut women’s hair in order to increase his income. In turn, he wanted to train his daughter who, at 16 years old, was two years too young to apply for the scholarship herself.
“Elder was in his late 30s and had never left his village before coming to our training,” Lowe recalls. “He was the sole provider for his extended family household of eight, and he typically earned $50 a week. After we taught him how to cut women’s hair, he returned to his village and earned $70 in the first week.” Lowe and another stylist personally reimbursed Elder the week’s income that he’d lost. Elder left with a new confidence.
“This made him realize that he had a lot in him,” says Lowe, adding that the team provided business tips along with the technical instruction. “We did a goal-setting session, and Elder said it was the first time he’d ever set a goal.”
The team conducted complimentary haircuts at a coffee farm, a local church, and a “feeding center,” which was a sort of food pantry.
“At the coffee farm, there was so much demand that we couldn’t do everyone,” Lowe reports. “They were all saying, ‘Yes, try it on me!’ The most popular request was to ‘cut it in a V’—a sort of long shag.”
Life at Poverty Level
Lowe says that lice ran rampant.
“That’s just part of their daily life,” she says. “They’d apply some concoction that wouldn’t work, so we saw a lot of lice. We explained about sanitation—information they didn’t know. And we wore masks because of COVID.”
The instruction took place at a school that was in regular session at the time. Lowe says the education focused on trades even for young children.
“Girls there learn how to create clothing that they can sell,” she says. “Some go to school only on mornings, only on afternoons or even only on Saturdays. Seeing the Guatemalans’ love for their families was awesome. Women who work in grocery stores have to take their children with them as they work. It all made me realize that I have so much to be grateful for. Seeing those little girls already learning a trade has helped me teach my kids deep gratitude. It’s made me want to inspire my children, who are about the same age, to think about what they can do to give back to the world.”
Future Scholarship Trips
As the week rolled on, Lowe was posting on social media and heard from several hairdressers wanting to volunteer for the next Global Stylist Scholarship event, whether that will be in Guatemala or a different location. Members of her own salon team, too, are eager to participate.
“These trips were supposed to be yearly,” Lowe says, “but so many people want to go and there’s so much need that Mandy might schedule them more often.”
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