Bunbury hairdresser Stephanie Harwood has returned from a life-altering trip to Cambodia, where she worked with humanitarian group Hair Aid to equip people living in poverty with the skill of cutting hair.
The charity organisation works in a number of impoverished countries to train people to start micro businesses, allowing them to gain independence and support their families. Ms Harwood, owner of HBM Studio, said she had followed in the steps of industry professionals she admired who had also extended a helping hand.
“The industry has given me so much that I wanted to be able to give back what it has given me,” she said.
“The art and the skill that I have gained from being a hairdresser has shaped my life in many ways.
“Being able to be a mum and earn a wage and being financially independent is a huge thing and I couldn’t wait to go to Cambodia and give that to other women who are obviously in more compromising situations than we are in WA.”
Ms Harwood said she was shocked at the number of issues the people of Cambodia faced every day, with human trafficking, AIDS and child abuse prevalent.
She was assigned a group called Precious Women, which helps exploited women working in the sex industry.
“A lot of the people still had their life going on as it was – it wasn’t like a rescue, it was about giving them skills and giving them options for the future,” she said.
Ms Harwood was also able to gift toothbrushes and toothpaste donated by the Bunbury Government Dental Clinic to children living in a rubbish tip, who had been brushing their teeth with soap.
She said the trip gave her a new perspective on life and she encouraged other hairdressers to get involved.
“We are so lucky to have an industry that is so creative, let’s use that to give back in other ways and let other people who have dealt with a hard life have a creative outlet and give them independence.”