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Hair cutting saves lives. By the end of this, I think you’ll agree. My name is Dianna Bautista.

I have been doing hair for 15 years. Actually, 22 years if you count from when I would use my mom’s orange handled kitchen scissors to cut my friend’s hair in our backyard. I have learned so much in the time I have been doing hair. How to talk to people. How to ignore people. How to use my skill to allow women to feel and be their most beautiful.

In cutting hair I have found my passion. Within my passion I have found my purpose. A purpose bigger than me. A purpose that is bigger than my career. A purpose that has the power to bring freedom and justice to enslaved people all over the world. Yes. Cutting hair has the power to do all of that.

My journey today began many years ago. My brother and I are the product of divorced parents. After my father left, a trusted friend came into our home and took advantage of my mother’s trust and began to sexually abuse my brother for 10 years. In 2008, my brother finally came forward after so many years of hiding from the truth. The man was arrested and my brother and 8 men testified against their accuser and he was convicted and sentenced to 150 years in prison. On top of that I was at the end of an abusive and destructive marriage and I was searching for the lost passion that left a gapping whole in my heart. So, I went to Africa!

During my time in Kenya we walked through the poorest slums in the world. Along the dirt and muddy roads were the worst smells of human excrement you can imagine. And in the middle of it all are the brightest shining smiles on the most angelic faces. The happiest of children living in the saddest of situations really brought perspective to my first world view. On our morning walks I saw a few hair salons in shacks. I learned these salons were shanty homes of women desperate to provide for their children. They had no technical training. Just their God-given creativity. Sounded kinda like me in high school. I immediately empathized with them. I wished to begin beauty school much earlier than I did, but I was required to wait. The difference is I actually had the opportunity to go to beauty school and become educated, whereas these ladies had no chance at all given their circumstances.

I wanted to help. I wanted to do something. I wanted to support these women in meeting technique with their creativity like I was able to. I really wanted to get some barbicide and clean their combs! I flew home without even asking if there was something I could do. For the next year I thought every day about that slum and how I could help them. But my defeatist attitude kept saying, “Why would African women listen to some crazy mzungu from America about doing hair?”

After returning from Kenya, a guy selling hair cutting shears came to my salon and told his company was offering a discounted rate on shears if I traded one of my old pair. Great idea! “So what are you doing with the old pair of shears?” He replied,”Our non-profit will be sharpening them and giving them to women in South America in the favelas and teaching them how to do hair.” After 1 second, “I’m gonna go with you. You or whoever is going. So you need to call someone right now and tell them I’m coming.” He was a little taken back, but he called The Trade and let them know just what I had said. Probably because he was scared of me, but he called!

Soon I was off to Kenya and was once again desperate to help the women I had seen the year before. About 3 days into my trip I learned that the founder of the organization there had a dream spanning the past 5 years to build a beauty school for the women on the slums but had to idea how to make her dream a reality. Speechless…. Immediately I put feet to her dream.

Everything began to snowball. Well, avalanche really! It was a downpour of responsibility that I was called to respond to. If I didn’t, someone else surely would.

Since 2010, I have been to Brazil, Kenya, Uganda, Mexico, and Cambodia and had the privilege of teaching women from all walks of life. They all have found a deep passion for the art of hair dressing and are using it to better their lives, families, society, and culture. Our students in Brazil desire safety and success for their children. Our ladies in Kenya wish for their children live free from the danger of the slums and extreme poverty. The ladies I taught in Uganda who were survivors of the Northern Ugandan Conflict pray for their children to be safe and provided for. The women we have worked with in Mexico have beautiful dreams of abundant love and building up the impoverished community the live in. The girls we work with in Cambodia have goals of a dignified career free from the bonds of sex slavery. A career in hair dressing has given them the voice and the power to achieve all of these things.

There has been no mistake in any of this. Watching my parents separate, being powerless to protect my brother against a villainous predator, and being in an unhealthy relationship all helped shape my morals, my world view, and my faith to what it is today. I needed to experience all those things to have the grace and empathy to work with the women I do. After years of traveling from country to country, I have chosen to move permanently to Cambodia to be the lead instructor of a beauty school that The Trade is building to teaching women and girls who have been rescued from sex slavery the skill of hair dressing. The students we have already taught have found freedom. I have felt an urgency to help women find freedom from injustice. The team I get to work is passionate about creating a safe environment for the girls we teach. From the construction team, to the hair stylists and makeup artists, to our director, to the generous donors behind our work, it is an honor to be a part of something bigger than me. Its bigger than all of us.

I dare anyone to say a hair cut can’t save someone’s life. It has saved the lives of countless women and children. So, next time you get your hair cut, let your stylist know how her passion in hair dressing has changed the lives people all over the world.

Learn. Connect. Act.
To get involved, go to supportthetrade.org
To help support Dianna in her journey to Cambodia, go to grouprev.com/shearlove

From the Editor
At Conscious, we are inspired by remarkable people, and so we set out to tell stories that highlight real human interactions and human dignity. You can read more stories like this when you pick up your copy of Conscious Magazine. Subscribe today via our Conscious Shop and subscribe to Conscious Updates.

Images: Logan Cole