Sam ready for move to Pickett St

Sam Chandrasena travels lightly, so moving her volunteer work from the current McAuley House to the new Pickett St building in November will be easy. She’s looking forward to finding out where the new monthly pop up hair salon will be.

Sam, who has run her own salon, Capture Hair Design, in North Melbourne, for 16 years, began volunteering at McAuley House two years ago. Each month she goes to McAuley House and cuts the women’s hair. She intends doing the same at Pickett St.

Victoria’s first purpose built accommodation and support hub for women who are, or who have been homeless, at 1-3 Pickett St, Footscray, will be officially opened on November 30. The new $11 million building has been largely funded through the generous support of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea with $4 million from the Victorian Government.

Sam’s relationship with McAuley Community Services for Women first began when a staff member came to her salon for a hair cut. Sam told the staff member about her regular volunteering at the Royal Children’s Hospital cutting the hair of children in the cancer and trauma wards and the two of them then discussed how that might also work at McAuley House.

So Sam fronted up to McAuley House and discovered that the women living there, though very different from her clients at the Royal Children’s Hospital, had traumas of a very different kind to manage.

“One of the ladies I have worked with at McAuley House came to me with big patches in her head where her hair had been pulled out in chunks by her violent husband when he used to pull it,” Sam said. “After a few months of care we were able to get her hair looking normal again.”

Sam visits McAuley House on a Monday; that’s her day off when she closes her own salon.She usually sees about six women and offers cuts and blow waves. Her care and compassion give both her and her ‘clients’ a lift.

“I know from all my years as a hairdresser that having your hair done can make you feel better about yourself. It might not fix your problems, but it can help because it boosts your confidence a bit. Some of the women I see haven’t had a hair do for years because they don’t have the money or because they don’t feel confident enough to go into a hair salon,” Sam said. “And it makes me feel good going there each month. It is something I can offer, a skill I can donate that does make a difference.”

Volunteering at McAuley House has also changed how Sam sees the world – at least the world of homeless people.

“I used to think that only a certain sort of person would end up homeless. But coming to McAuley House has taught me that that is not the case and I was so surprised. I have met many older women, good women and they have just found themselves in a situation that changed their lives. I think that can happen to any of us,” Sam said.