Green Ginger Hairdressing style director Christopher Davies is packing his salon scissors along with other equipment in readiness for a month-long stay in Syria, delivering humanitarian aid as part of a volunteer team working with French charity SOS Christians of the Orient.
The charity’s mission is to deliver practical help and moral support to Christians in areas of conflict, and its teams work in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
Christopher will be helping to deliver medical, education, food and hygiene aid to the Syrian population coping with the after-effects of the civil war. He will also be part of a team helping with practical work including the repair and rebuilding of world heritage and culture sites that were damaged in the conflict.
A style director at Green Ginger Hairdressing in Newcastle, Christopher has been studying Arabic for the last two years at North East Arabic Language Academy in Newcastle in readiness for the trip. His employers have supported him by holding fund-raising events at the salon and signing off his month-long absence through a mix of holiday and unpaid leave.
“I found out about the work of SOS Christians of the Orient through my own church, Walker Parish Church, and I wanted to do my bit to help to people suffering from the effects of the civil war,” he said.
“Not everyone is lucky enough to live in a safe, clean environment and have access to all the benefits we take for granted here in the West, and I just felt it was something I had to do.
“Syria has one of the oldest Christian populations in the world, representing around 10% of the population, and many of them have been displaced in the conflict and desperately need help.
“Along with all the other equipment on my kit list, I decided to take my scissors and salon kit along with me, and if I get the chance, I will be giving out free haircuts. It might sound trivial, but having a haircut is a small act of kindness that can boost self-esteem and have a big impact on how someone feels about themselves and their lives.”
To be accepted as a volunteer with SOS Christians of the Orient, applicants have to go through a rigorous vetting process, and pledge to raise money to help fund their trip.
As well as producing leaflets to publicise the Middle East Crisis and the charity’s work, Christopher has given talks about its mission, and raised funds through raffles and cake sales at Green Ginger Hairdressing and Walker Parish Church.
“No one who knows Christopher is surprised by this move, and we are all right behind him,” said his employer Paula Todd, known to friends and clients as Rusti, and owner of Green Ginger Hairdressing, which has donated several raffle prizes to the cause.
“People tend to think that being a hairdresser is all about light chat about holiday plans, but in reality we have to have real empathy with our clients and be good communicators.
“Christopher has that in spades, as well as having a big heart. We are all very proud of him and as well as contributing to the appeal, clients are wishing him well and timing appointments around his month-long absence from the salon.
“As a small business, managing our resources so everyone can maintain a good work life balance and the needs of our clients can be a real balancing act. We are a close knit team as well as being friends outside work, and I know how much this trip means to Christopher. Being flexible about requests like this results in a happy, engaged workforce, and that benefits everyone in the long run.”
Christopher, who leaves the UK for Beirut this month, added: “I am very much looking forward to the experience.
“I have requested to be posted to Aleppo, which is the country’s largest city and its old town is a World Heritage Site and in need of vital repairs if it is to be saved for future generations, but I could end up in one of several locations in the country. I will be going wherever the charity decides I need to be.
“It will be hard work but hopefully I will be able to make a difference to people’s lives, and I expect the trip to be a life-changing experience.
“It will certainly give me something to talk about when clients ask me what I did for my holidays this year.”