Pam is the founder of the HOPE Stylin’ Hair Salon where she volunteers her time every Wednesday from 9:30am to 3:00pm. She has an incredible story to share, one that begins in a very dark place. But like most tales that are born in the dark, it leads to a lighter, brighter path and we at HOPE house are so honoured to have been there to walk it beside her, and continue to do so, in a mutually beneficial relationship of sharing and caring. This story is about Pam’s transformation from loss to hope.
It’s Griefwalk, a program that provides a safe place to cope with life’s losses, that actually brought Pam through the doors of HOPE House after her 13 year old son, Steven, tragically took his own life due to bullying. Pam shares that a “wonderful woman from Griefwalk” told her about the Guelph Community Backpack Project and the hundreds of children the program helps provide with brand new schools supplies. “I looked at her and I said, well they can’t have backpacks and new clothes without a haircut! I will cut their hair!” she exclaims.
Her first day she cut the hair of approximately 40 children in an 8.5 hour period. “I went home exhausted. We didn’t realize what a need there was for hairdressing, until hairdressing was here” Pam explains. “It’s a social community. We are more than a hair salon. We are a meeting place. I was the original and it’s because I needed a purpose in life and I would be darned if our little ones were going to return with everything else and not a brand new hair cut because I know how important it is”.
In the beginning the salon was only a wooden chair, and a little wooden table that has, over the last four years, transformed into a full-blown salon with a proper barbers chair, hair wash sink, waiting area, and laundry.
“People come and just say hi, have coffee, chat for a few moments while they’re waiting their turn for the Clothing Market or Food Market…it’s become a real part of the community” Pam proudly shares.
When asked if her role is therapeutic, the proverbial hairstylist/client relationship where the client divulges all to the stylist, Pam responds “I’m a beautician, not a magician. But yes, that’s why it’s an integral part of our community at HOPE House and what is said in the salon, stays in the salon. Whatever I’m told stays with me and that is the most important part because these wonderful people give me life, hope, and self confidence. I come in and spend 10-15 minutes on a french twist or braid, or a blowout and a curl, what does that cost? I’ll tell you what it costs me. It costs me not sitting in my house having to talk to the dog or cat. Not going crazy with the grief, guilt, and woulda, coulda, shoulda’s. And I know it has been a while since my son died, but you never get over it. I am just now finding my feet. Life has opened it’s doors and eleven years ago I thought there was only blackness. Without everyone at HOPE House I really don’t know if I’d still be here and I mean that literally, not figuratively”.
When asked what she gets back from volunteering as the HOPE House hairstylist, Pam thinks deeply for a moment, then shares “I had lost myself for well over 15 years. I was a wife, a mother, and a special needs caregiver. I had no idea who I was. A brand new haircut does more for people’s self esteem and self-worth than a lot of things. The results are immediate. They come in and they leave with an entirely different mindset. The nominal fee is nothing compared to the smiles and the conversation. I get back everything. I get back communication. I get back self worth, self confidence. I get back me”.