Refugees Welcome: Barber Squad
Hairdresser Sabrina Lefebvre on sharing the simple pleasures of a haircut with the people of Calais
Interview by Rhona Ezuma
What is The HairCult Project and how did it start?
Sabrina: “The HairCult Project is a photo documentary about hair dressing scenes around the world. The project is really about humanity, but in common. I wanted to have the hair dressing moment. I wanted to show the interactions that make getting your hair done a special moment.”
Why did you decide to take The Hair Cult Project to Calais?
Sabrina: ““I’m a hairstylist but when I’ve heard about the situations in some hospitals or refugee camps, it’s made me realise people need a lot of help. I wanted to put myself through some volunteering so I came to Calais. I started doing hair as a way to spend time with the people there – it’s a great way to connect with people and getting your hair cut is something nice that people enjoy getting done.”
How did you do the haircuts in the camp?
Sabrina: “I spread the word that I was giving out free hair cuts and told people to meet me at a certain place in the camp. When I spoke to people, I realised that there were a lot of barbers in the camp, so I started wanting to create a team. In some parts of the camp there were already some hairdressers sitting on the floor and cutting hair and one had already set up a salon. When I came, I always carried spare clippers, scissors, combs and shampoos for them, as I knew a lot people would have lost their tools. At some points during spreading the word out, I would meet someone who would say ‘oh, I’m a barber!’ and then I’d ask them if they wanted to join. By the end of the day we were like six hairdressers and we had queue of clients and a receptionist who kept the queue in order.”
Do you have a certain story from your time in Calais that has really stuck with you?
Sabrina: “We have a picture of one woman from Iran. We had more guys than women, so we had to take a step back from the guys to do her hair. When I finished cutting her hair she became crazily happy with the style and started to pose with us for pictures. She started swinging her hair back from side to side and it was just such an amazing moment. I think for her the haircut gave her a really liberating feeling and it was nice to have been apart of that.”
When you went to Calais, was it a one day trip?
Sabrina: “I’ve been around seven times. The first time it was four days and it was unbelievable. The conditions are terrible so in the beginning you get shocked by that, but then you forget all the poor things around and you see how rich the people are in their hearts.”
How would you describe the people you met?
Sabrina: “I met really amazing characters. I’ve never really been part of a Muslim community before, so it was my first time quite close to Muslim culture. It was amazing to see the hospitality they had, they had nothing and yet we’d be hosted like kings. People would be cooking food and inviting us into their ‘houses’ – when they say house they mean ‘tents’, but for them it was their home. They’d be telling stories, sharing food, it was really amazing to be around them, even though they were in such tough situations.”
When you found out parts of Calais were being shut down what were your feelings?
Sabrina: “I was there in the jungle when they destroyed the first part of it. It was disturbing to see, they were moving a part that had the church in it which was a big symbol for a lot of people from Eritrea. It was difficult to know that all the good things that people had created in Calais, were not going to exist anymore. I hoped that it was for a good reason, as I knew they were making some new cleaner and more comfortable camps but of course when I heard about the continued deconstruction I felt bad, especially because I knew the refugees don’t always understand everything that is happening around them, but everything seems to be better now.”
So last thing, for anyone who would like to go to the help out at refugee camp what advice would you give that person?
Sabrina: “I definitely would want to motivate that person to go. They need so much help and there are so many organisations which are already doing work which you could find out more from. It is one of the things I hope my project will do, show people that if I can do it, anyone can do it.”
For more about the HairCult Book series click here.