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I Do It Because It’s In Me

I started with the Lions Barbers Collective, it would have been October 2019. I met another person who was involved and he introduced me to it. Shortly after that, in the January, I lost a friend to suicide. And it just pushed me to do more and get more involved with Tom and The Lions.

The Lions Barber Collective train hair professionals in mental health support. For me, being an educator, it’s something I’m really passionate about, so I helped set up training for students at Abingdon and Witney College. Seeing the difference when my students trained with The Lions, I felt it was really beneficial. We've got a really good team, you know, within the service industry department. They're all very much behind it and most of the lecturers have taken the training as well.

I then became the volunteer liaison, probably about a year ago. So, I now structure and speak to volunteers all around the country. I help set up and coordinate pop-up Barber shops at different places, which raise awareness of mental health support whilst offering free haircuts, and I help co-ordinate volunteers. We've just set up a new volunteer induction process, so I've been bringing on new volunteers too. There are probably forty or so, which is great, and having more volunteers in the area will be wonderful. Training people within Oxfordshire, that's the main thing that drives me - the positive impact on people and community - definitely.

Part of what the Lions are doing is signposting people to other resources that are already available. So, it's building awareness of us within other charities, and showing people that other charities are there that they've never been aware of. Because of what I've done, I've learned what's out there, and I've started to build up relationships with other local charities.

I think it's developed me in lots of ways that I never really realised at the time. When I worked in a salon prior to doing the education that I do now, I lost two customers to suicide. And I used to then think, did I miss anything? People do divulge a lot of information to you. And sometimes you're not always prepared for it when you leave college. After a year of education you're a qualified barber or hairdresser, and you're 17 and you're in the industry, and you've got people telling you certain things that you might have never been told before. And the weight that you then carry from that conversation, it affects you. I definitely feel like, from doing the training and from other people doing the training, it gives you that… what's the right word to use? Not filter… but it teaches you how to safeguard yourself, like with the information that you're learning. Having the right questions to ask and knowing that you have asked the right questions. Having the right information to give people, and knowing that you have listened correctly and things like that. I feel like the training safeguards you to know that you've done everything for that person that you could do in that time that you were there with them.

And also, because when you're a hairdresser, like myself, quite often you’re thinking about: A) you're doing your job, B) you got a client coming in in 30 minutes, and this person's really talking and you're going to run over and what does that client want? And C.) then you've also got to pick the kids up at three and cook for dinner. So, while someone is talking to you, and you're thinking about 10 different things you're not present in the moment, so it actually teaches you how to put some thoughts to the back of your mind and really listen to people, and the right body language and words to use as well. So, it's really interesting to just open up and make those connections and listen to other people and absorb what they're saying.

Quite often you'll have somebody come in and say, I want a radical change, I want all my hair cut off. And you're like, do you? Do you really want a radical change? Are you just having a moment and you're going to hate me tomorrow if I cut all your hair off? You know, some people do and that's fine. But you need to be able to then ask the right questions to know whether they're just having a bit of a crazy headspace moment, and they need to overcome that and not just cut their hair.

You know, barbershops, hairdressers and beauticians have changed quite a lot because of COVID. I think there has been a massive impact from the PPE that people had to wear. Now you can book silent appointments. So, if you are really anxious, and you want to go in, and you just want to get your hair cut, and you actually don't want to don't chat, you can click that. And then you literally just do your consultation, and as a barber or hairdresser you learn how to stay quiet and to give somebody that service. Some people are really anxious about talking to strangers and find that really uncomfortable and so avoid the barbershops. Now you can also provide a safe space for somebody that doesn't want to talk.

I am a very active person, and I don't like to be bored. I have got two young children and I work my full working week within four days. So, I have a Friday, but that's my day off and that's what I give to the charity. It's not always a full day. I do what I need to do, and I can dip in and out. My dad, for 10 years, ran a football team that he was dedicated too, and he dragged me along to every game. So maybe I have learned that passion from my parents to a degree. I'm very lucky, my mum and dad are amazing, they help the children a lot, as well as my husband. My kids love it - they come to the football tournament, and they've done the Lion’s Road five-mile run, and they raise money. They do the cake sale with me, and they help do all the baking. They enjoy all aspects of it. I hope my children will learn from it and see the goodness of it, and why I do it too.

If I can do anything, no matter how nervous and scared I am, if I can talk about the charity, and push the message further, I would definitely do it. I think it's good to put yourself outside your comfort zone. I do it because I enjoy it. I love it. I believe in the charity; I believe in the message it's sending out. I've seen the positive effects of it and how it helps. So that probably drives me to do more. I don't feel like it is work or it is extra. I do it because it’s in me, if you see what I mean?


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