Somewhere in my long list of things I would like to protect the kids from, you’ll find “mean haircuts”. It’s bad enough that the boys in Nueva often look like the stereotypical orphan children with ripped clothes and shaved heads, but how they get those shaved heads can be even worse . Since “The Fire of 2011“, I’ve seen some volunteers from a hair school in the center (yaay!) but before this, hair cutting was the job of a crabby employee or older boy. And when you put a set of rusty and dull clippers in the hands of either of these options, nothing good is going to happen. The clippers would come out and the boys would scatter. It’s like a malicious game of hide and seek. The older boys search out the younger ones and drag them to ‘the chair’ to receive their punishment, I mean, haircut. I once may have hid with a new child in the tunnel slide out back as we attempted to give him just a few more days with his gorgeous, curly locks.
Best case scenario would be that a child would come away from the experience with large tufts of hair around the ear and back of the head that were missed by the evil clippers. Therefore, the child would look silly, but the experience was relatively pain free. Worst case was that you could still see the path the clippers etched into the child’s absurdly bald head for hours after he had been caught. I once found two kids on the street who had run away from Nueva because of this experience. (Read about them here.)
Haircuts are no joke.
Which is why this seemingly small and insignificant story means so much to me. This year, Proniño began offering another vocational training opportunity to the boys. A handful of them are receiving barbershop training.
And Manuel is rockin it.
I apprehensively walked into the ‘barbershop’ expecting to find tears and struggle. Instead, I found Gerson explaining what style he wanted, then submitting himself to the clippers in Manuel’s hands with zero apprehension. I was witnessing a little miracle. When I regained my ability to speak, I asked Bessy, their teacher, how long she had been giving classes. Mere weeks. She said that Manuel picked up the technique in the very first class and by the third he had made a style without first being taught how. At this point, she’s just there to observe his work.
Later in the day, I was chatting with Manuel when Denis came running from across the field to Vencedores, where the little guys live. He stopped just long enough to brush a few stray hairs off his shoulder and shout, “Gracias, Manuel!” Then he ran upstairs. This is a such a simple thing. It should not be noteworthy. But sadly it is.
1) Denis has a haircut that he likes. This makes him feel good about himself.
2) The haircut caused him no pain. Physical or emotional.
3) An older child used his abilities and talents to help a younger child. What a wonderful example and role model.
Manuel shouted “De nada!” in response, then returned to our conversation. He had no idea that something monumental had just occurred. But maybe I’m just too easily moved.
In an effort to ensure that they never have rusty, dull or sub par equipment in their hands, nor will they be directed by a crabby employee, I’m seeking a giving soul or two or four who would be interested in sponsoring this program. The cost for the program is $350 a month. This translates to $175 for two giving souls, $87.50 for four or even less if we’re able to get donations of supplies! I’ll even take a barber’s pole if someone can figure out how to get it down there…