A Special Salon In Cambodia Is Lifting Lives Out Of Ruin
Matthew Fairfax, who uprooted his entire life and moved to Cambodia, works with Co-Founder Lauren “Kate” Ebright to offer new lives to survivors of sex trafficking.
You help your clients every day behind the chair, but would you answer a higher calling and move halfway around the world if it meant giving life, hope and purpose to those who had none? That’s what Timea Katona did when she decided to become a senior stylist and lead educator at the Kate Korpi Salon and Academy in Cambodia. There, she works with victims of sexual trafficking—women who have endured unspeakable circumstances, including being shunned by their families and neighbors. She teaches them the skills that will allow them to become beauty professionals, and in doing so, she saves their lives. Even though she left behind a posh life in Chicago, plus clients, family and friends, Timea has never been happier. “My heart is lifted up because there is so much love in helping our students with their transformations,” she says. “For the first time in my life, I feel free and happy.”
The salon in Cambodia is the mission of Matthew Fairfax, a Seattle stylist who created the Justice and Soul Foundation with Lauren “Kate” Ebright in 2013 after learning that upwards of 30,000 young women and children are forced into sexual slavery each year. There are 20 to 30 million trafficking victims in the world today. Many young girls are “sold” by their parents who can’t afford to support them. Matthew’s plan was to open an academy that would provide these victims with training for a new life, as well as a salon that funds the academy and offers the victims a place to work. In 2014, that is exactly what he did. Thanks to support from Justice and Soul fundraisers in the U.S—sponsorship from salons, distributors and manufacturers, including TIGI, Moroccanoil, John Paul Mitchell Systems, Brazilian Blowout , Davines, Loma, Pivot Point, Envision Software, Salon Services and Supplies and Dermalogica, and volunteers who spend time as guest artists at the facility—two students are preparing for a fall commencement! What’s more, one student has already graduated from the Dermalogica skin therapy course and is working as a therapist and teacher.
Students use Matthew’s bald head to learn scalp structure.
A One-Way Ticket
Timea’s first trip to Kate Korpi was as a volunteer guest artist. When she returned home, she couldn’t stop thinking about the students who were working so hard, with so much gratitude, to transform their lives. So she bought a one-way ticket back to Cambodia, left Chicago behind and settled in. She admits to being homesick from time to time, but each day also affirms her decision. “One day a student said to me, ‘I hope to be able to do hair like you,’” Timea remembers. “I told her, ‘You will! You will be even better than me. I will teach you and give you the skills.’ The student stopped and gave me a huge smile. We are truly building the foundations to help them believe anything is possible.”
For Nate Martin of Bliss Salon in Spokane, Wash. and a guest artist at Kate Korpi, the experience was also life-changing. He realized many of the students were coping with great turmoil outside of the salon but never wavered from their hard work inside. “The love and excitement for what they are doing is unlike anything I have experienced,” he notes.
Timea Katona finishes a client as Matthew Fairfax leads a salon tour.
Schools are being created to support the healing & education of rescued girls.
Dermologica sponsors skin therapy certification training.
Take The Chance Of A Lifetime
Although the project is going well, Matthew notes that there is still a great need for a steady flow of volunteers to work in the salon and teach. “Volunteers are the lifeblood of our work,” he says. “Without them, the program won’t run effectively.”
So what does it take to be a volunteer? It starts with an in-depth interview with Matthew and his team to ensure a good fit. Questions and criteria include:
Are you an experienced stylist who takes pride in your work? Ideally, guest artists will have at least three years of salon experience. “We are looking for stylists who have already turned someone’s hair green and fixed it!” Matthew laughs. (In the future, however, there will be programs for newer stylists who would like to help out in the classroom, so stay tuned!)
Is your portfolio ready? Be prepared to display before and after shots of your work or videos of your hair artistry.
Can you work, work, work, work, work? As a guest artist, you will be working alongside the educators and helping to reinforce the lessons by working with students in one-on-one sessions. You will also work with clients in the posh Kate Korpi Salon. If you happen to have additional training—such as one guest artist who was an educator for Brazilian Blowout—you can help teach a class.
Ideally, Matthew prefers volunteers to stay for at least three weeks. After three months, you will begin to receive a stipend. Airfare ranges from $1,000 to $1,500, and living expenses are about $50 a month for an Airbnb-type arrangement of your own room, bathroom and shared kitchen. Food costs are low, so dig in and sample the Cambodian cuisine. And be sure to plan ahead—guest artists are currently booked one year in advance!
This year’s Fashion and SOULstice initiative raised just over $100,000.
Matthew dreams of a Fashion SOULstice fundraising event in every major city.
And if Cambodia just isn’t in the cards? More than 50 salons have held cut-a-thons, fundraisers and Fashion SOULstice events. Anything can help—even a raffle. Raise just $3,000 and you’ll support three students for a year or cover the expenses of one volunteer.
If you want to help, or you’re ready to commit to a life-changing experience, visit JusticeAndSoul.org to learn more.