It’s been a long time coming but I have finally made a visit to the Salon. It has been one of the highlights of my trip. After seeing the degradation of life for the poor people of the slum areas, this little salon was like a ray of sunshine making the day seem brighter, not just for me, but also for the ladies working there and the ladies getting their hair done there. It’s tiny, but bright and cheerful. The street it’s on is a typical street with small shops and businesses  selling things like 2nd hand clothes, food, shoes and anything else that people can make a living from selling.

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I recieved a warm welcome and felt at home immediately. The warmth and generosity of women here is something very special. The salon is open everyday from early in the morning until late in the evening. The girls working there aren’t working full time. They come when they can and that all depends on whether anyone is available to look after their children. Some girls have had to stop learning and working at the salon for this very reason. Nurseries don’t exist here. It’s families looking after each other. But young mothers lives can be totally changed if they have a nursery where they can leave the children while they work. This also means that other members of the family can be free to look for work too.

The girls are being tought things like hair weaving and lots of styling goes on. It can take 3 hours or longer per customer to do someones hair extensions. Phew! Long periods of standing and a lot of patience needed by the customers too. The extensions will stay in for three or four weeks and then they will all be taken out and the process starts all over again if the customer has the money to come again.

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Water has to be delivered to the salon. ( Taps with running water a rarity here) and the electricity is extremely unreliable. The power regularly goes off, which leaves everyone in total darkness. The salon can’t function without it of course. With no lights, and no use of hairdryers they have to close. Being able to buy an emergency generator would really help. I will put this on the list of things we need. Something else we’d like to do is painting nails. Customers could then come to the salon and get their hair AND nails done. It will be relatively cheap to do this and we only need to invest in nail varnish, gel nails and a UV light which is used to dry them. It would bring in some extra revenue for the salon and the girls.

Security was an issue when the salon first opened. There had been a couple of attempts to break in but extra secure locks have  solved this problem and right next door is a small, privately owned hospital, which has security which our salon is benefiting from. It’s awful to think that things could be stolen but when everyone is so desperate to make ends meet, it’s understandable.

At the moment we are just getting by financially. Because our funds are limited, ( we are a project still in its very early stages) what we have raised so far is being used on rent, water, electricity and hair products. Paying rent is not ideal. The land owner can charge what he likes and put up the rent if he feels like it. But we hope to be able to buy our own piece of land for our project where we can build our own building and once it’s ours, we will only have to pay for ground rates. This is going to be much cheaper and we will be able to function independantly.

It’s been fantastic being here and seeing the salon at last. I have a much clearer idea how things work here and how the salon is being run. We have a lot of things to think about and lots to plan for. My head is spinning from all the impressions of this visit. When I close my eyes at night I can’t stop seeing the girls living conditions in the slums and the sights and sounds of this poverty stricken, sprawling city.

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