2 Paycheques Away.. Is Uplifting Spirits and Fostering Community Through Barbering

2 Paycheques Away.. Is Uplifting Spirits and Fostering Community Through Barbering

Imagine the impact of missing two paychecks in a row. Statistics reveal the harsh realities: in 2020, 2095 Vancouverites faced homelessness, with 87% reporting health conditions and 60% battling addiction. Nearly half of Canadians live paycheck to paycheck.

“We’re all born the same and something as simple as 2 paycheques can make all the difference.”

These facts fuel the fire of 2 Paycheques Away.., a nonprofit in Vancouver founded by Blanche Macdonald Barbering Instructor Alysha Osborne and photographer Mihailo Subotic. Their mission is to break the stigma surrounding Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES) residents.

Living in Gastown, Alysha had formed connections with many DTES residents. She witnessed firsthand the challenges they faced and mobilized her 11 years of hair industry experience and expertise to make a significant difference in their lives.

By offering free haircuts and, if given permission, sharing before-and-after photos through books and social media, 2 Paycheques uses the power of connection and photography to showcase these resilient individuals. The book is an important educational tool, emphasizing compassion and overcoming stereotypes’ negative impact.

“Barbering with 2 Paycheques Away.. gave us good practice in cutting, socializing, customer service and how to start conversations.”

“It’s easy to judge a book by its cover,” Osborne says in an interview with Global News. “And being able to share people’s stories, lets people see past just the initial. We’ve managed to get our book into schools and it’s being used in classrooms across Canada, so we’re being able to teach the next generation not to judge.”

By amplifying the voices of the DTES community, 2 Paycheques aims to transform misconceptions into understanding and solidarity with our fellow Vancouverites. They provide haircuts for residents of the DTES and low-income communities, sell books to raise funds, and organize monthly drives for essential items like bedding, food, shoes, and clothes. They also encourage volunteer hairdressers and barbers to get involved and share their skills and passion for the craft and for people. 

“Helping people feel better about themselves is the first step toward improving their world and how the world views them.”

Since January 2024, many Blanche Macdonald Barbering and Pro Hair students have accompanied Alysha to different locations on the DTES to provide haircuts. The experience is moving and invaluable, fostering the special human connection that comes from providing such an intimate service. 

“Barbering with 2 Paycheques Away.. gave us good practice in cutting, socializing, customer service and how to start conversations,” says Allen Menon, a BMC Barbering Student who participated in the first student event. “It was great!” agrees Inderpreet Uppal, another student volunteer. “It helped us become more comfortable talking to customers. The best part was gaining real-life experience.”

“When someone you care about is in the process of healing, just being there is the most valuable gift.”

Alysha’s own real-life experiences foster empathy and openness in the barbering chair.

“People will come and sit down in the chair, and I will ask them what it is that they want, what they’re looking for, how I can make them feel like them again. But also, I have a history in my family with addiction. My step-mom in her early 20s lived on the Downtown East Side; she was a runaway at 14. So I know how people can wind up in these situations and through that, after I explain my history with it, a lot of people will get comfortable and want to open up with me a little bit more. They’ve been generous enough to trust me to be able to share their stories as we’ve moved on.”

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