The young people living with developmental and physical disabilities at the Home of Hope are highly practical and ever ready for new experiences. One day, after a physical exercise period and a steamy hot morning, a boy asked me to cut his hair. Due to COVID-19, the barber who used to cut their hair was not available.
I discussed with the Cambodian staff that I had done only simple hair trimming for some folks in the past; so the result would not be as stylish as from their usual professional barber. The staff said that was OK. I explained the same to the boy, and he did not seem to mind and continued to ask me to cut his hair.
Excitement filled the air as I was gathering a pair of scissors, towel, etc. and setting the space up for our “salon.” My hand cautiously clipped the tips of the hair at first but grew steadier with each clip. I handed the boy a small mirror to follow the progress. The satisfying look on his face was precious and catching.
Guess what? The other kids wanted their hair cut, too!
If mealtime is the most favorite time for these young people, then grooming time cannot be far behind. They enjoy lathering up the soap and smelling the fresh, clean scent. Some kids compete with each other to be next in line, even though all will get their chance. Most kids look attentively at those getting a manicure and a pedicure in anticipation of their own turn.
Some hands or feet were crooked or deformed since birth, others just plainly packed with dirt. COVID-19 presents many challenges but also affirms one fact in life — namely that playing in the dirt is still as appealing as ever!
These young people are reminded of healthy hygiene practices while enjoying the personal attention. In addition to some tangible benefits, such as cooling from the heat, keeping lice at bay or reducing skin infection from scratching, the kids usually become calmer and more cooperative after grooming time. Personal care seems so ordinary and yet so special, indeed profoundly special to these differently abled youth.
Kudos for meeting those basic needs in the middle of this pandemic. I have tried to help with some of these grooming needs myself and they are not easy to manage. They require more expertise than I imagined. So glad you encourage playing in the dirt. It’s very creative, available and affordable!
Wonderful work! You might want to share reflections with John O’Donoghue who also assists men with disabilities with similar tasks. Peace,