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Hair Project gives at-risk women style, slick dos

Hairstylists Heather Ross and Ian Frear worked their magic volunteering for the Hair Project at Chez Doris, as part of The Hair Project where stylists give women working through tough situations style. (Natalia Fedosieieva, The Eastern Door)


The Hair Project started last year in Montreal to provide free monthly hairstyling services at Chez Doris and the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal.

The service provides a beneficial experience of one-on-one care that can have positive effects for self-esteem.

Tricia Robinson, one of the co-founders, said they are helping people feel good about themselves because people deserve dignity and care beyond the essentials.

“Of course, it doesn’t fix your problems, but it’s still important to get confidence. When you get a beautiful haircut, you have a good feeling for your day,” she said.

She thinks other things that are important are the physical and social aspects.

“Some people who have experienced some sort of turbulence in life could have that unique care,” she said.

She reached out to the director of the Native Women’s Shelter, and the project was accepted.

“I truly see at the Native Women’s Shelter the women do appreciate it, ” she said. “You can see certain transformations that happen with some clients, the general feeling changes after they receive their haircut.”

They provide tools for the hairstylists, such as the straighteners, curlers, hairdryers, shampoos and products for every type of hair, according to Robinson.

“We need to accommodate everyone. For example, Native hair is different, so we need to buy product that will nourish that type of hair,” she said.

And the hairstylists are enthusiastic about volunteering.

“They are enjoying their craft again to do something good, having valuable and special skills,” she said.

Ian Frear, a hairstylist who has been volunteering since last September, sees that the women are happy.

“I feel the moment of relaxation,” Frear said. “They can just sit and have someone take care of their hair, they don’t have to worry. I think it is great.”

He said it is nice to give a service and take the money aspect out of it; “it is just about how you are able to give back to people.”

Hairstylist Heather Ross thinks more low-income projects should happen.

“Everyone needs a haircut, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, you should be able to have access to that service,” they said.

Ross didn’t have a chance to go to the Native Women’s Shelter, but they would like to.

“I use a lot of volunteering services, so I directly understand the importance of it. This is the skill that I have, and I give it back in a way that I can,” they said.

Kate Legrand, a residential support worker at the Native Women’s Shelter, said last week they had three hairstylists to serve the women, and the clients were appreciative.

“The hairstylists are really kind, they take their time to listen to every client, their personal needs, what suits their lifestyle, their personality,” she said.

Legrand said they do hair for kids as well.

“We had a little boy here, they shaved a design on his head and he was so happy,” she said.

Legrand said the workers put a sign-up sheet a few days before and usually it filled in within an hour.

“When you are living in a shelter, a lot of people don’t prioritize (self-care). You have food and shelter, but self-care and wellness are really important, too,” she said.

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