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Volunteers at Beauty Night

February 16, 2012

Writing about nonprofits is as much about the volunteers they attract as the work that the nonprofits do.

Small gifts of kindness make a difference:  Hikaru’s day job is in an accounting office downtown but she has always had a strong sense of volunteerism. She has helped out for years at Richmond Addition Services but found she wanted to do more and started volunteering at Beauty Night after she learned of it from a friend.

Hikaru was particularly moved at the last Christmas party when one of the women became quite teary talking about her life while being interviewed by the CBC. Hikaru was doing the woman’s nails at the time and when the woman finished the interview and saw how well her nails turned out, she was ‘really, really happy’. Hikaru says simply, “what girl doesn’t want to feel beautiful?”

Charise has lived through many tough times and currently lives in the North Okanagan. When she visits Vancouver, she makes a point of stopping in to Beauty Night where she always feels welcome. The attached photo shows Charise (middle) and Hikaru (right) with another volunteer on Charise’s left. Charise was so thankful for the new nails she received that night from the two volunteers that she wrote them a poem. The words of her neatly inscribed poem, a lovely message of gratitude to her two volunteers, follow:

 Japanese and Nepalese, two beautiful goddesses on either side of me painting my crooked nails filing smoothing soothing my soul with their reassuring deep brown eyes leading me to the sacred place in the earth where I am safe in the womb knowing I am okay there is beauty there and the jewels attached to each nail reflects the gold flecks in my water green eyes and our yellow skin tones blend with the red and white to make a golden banner linking our hearts. Charise

Make-up makes a difference to volunteers as well:  Martyna Tyszko is one of the many volunteers who gives unselfishly of her time for Beauty Night in order to bring a bit of joy and relaxation to women in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. While living in Calgary, she saw a documentary on the sex trade and was compelled to help women who were the victims of that business. When Martyna found out about Beauty Night, she also realized this would be an easy way to put her skills learned at the Blanche Macdonald beauty school to work.

Maryna describes her work at Beauty Night as “girl-time” in a friendly, almost slumberparty-like environment. She says she has learned a lot from the women during the year she has volunteered and her work at Beauty Night has inspired her to get a social work diploma.

Education changes lives:  Beauty Night isn`t just about putting on make-up. On the Tuesday that I went to Beauty Night, a group of 6 young students from the Pharmacy, Medicine and Nursing faculties at UBC were also there. They were giving information to the Beauty Night clients about the different aspects of heart health, how to keep blood pressure down, and particularly the importance of quitting smoking. The women were very interested in learning more about their health risks and what they could do about to improve their health. If you don’t know, you can’t change.

I ask Caroline Macgillivray, Executive Director and founder of Beauty Night about the many different types of volunteers that come to Beauty Night. Some come without any qualifications specific to their volunteer role but simply wish to help, one such being a nine-year old girl who comes with her mother and helps with arts and craft activities. Others, such as students studying psychiatry, medicine, nursing and kinetics have specific health knowledge which they use to teach the women. Beauty Night also obtains access to literature and research skills of these volunteers while the exposure helps the students build empathy and people skills which in turn prepares them for the future. Young Women in Business assist Beauty Night especially in connection with fundraising but Caroline encourages them to have hands-on experiences as well so that they understand the organization and can educate potential donors.

As Caroline says, people need to understand the difficult lives of the women in the Downtown East Side in order to really help.

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  1. February 16, 2012 12:55 pm


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