Homeless Kuala Lumpur resident Indera Abha struggles to eke out a meager existence by selling salvaged recyclables, so personal appearance concerns understandably take a back seat.
However, a Malaysian charity that offers free haircuts along with meals helps him salvage his dignity.
“I like to get my hair cut. I feel good, and it is free,” Indera, 49, said with a smile missing several teeth, as strands of his thin black hair floated to the ground around him.
Wielding the scissors is stylist Azmina Burhan, who runs her own salon, but volunteers with the Pertiwi Soup Kitchen to provide for an often overlooked need of homeless people.
“To me, how people look is very important. You want to look good every day when you wake up, no matter how rich you are, how poor you are,” the 26-year-old said.
Azmina joined the charity shortly after its establishment in 2010, helping to give out food and water several times each week.
However, after encountering hundreds of homeless people who could not afford proper haircuts, she started bringing along her scissors to the soup kitchen, apron and a small stool about once every other month. Each time she goes now, she gives up to 30 haircuts, and counting.
“After you finish getting a haircut you look good, you feel good, and you have that self-confidence in you,” she said, adding that a cleaned-up appearance could help people secure jobs.
For Azmina, the task can mean handling dirty, matted hair. The worst, she said, was a man who slept on the streets and had not washed his hair for months, leaving her hands blackened with dust.
However, she has never turned anyone away and said the image of the smelly, lice-infested homeless person is false and is the sort of stereotype that she aims to eliminate by giving her haircuts.
Her homeless customers can be quite trendy, especially younger ones, and common requests include British soccer star David Beckham’s hairstyles and the longer fringes favored by South Korean and Japanese pop icons.
Malaysian living standards have vaulted steadily upward thanks to decades of strong economic growth, but Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy is not immune to privation, and income disparity has widened.
Pertiwi said Kuala Lumpur and its outskirts have an estimated 1,800 homeless people. Government officials did not respond to an Agence France-Presse request for figures.
Pertiwi feeds up to 700 people four times a week, pulling up with a food-loaded van in three of Kuala Lumpur’s poorer areas.
Volunteer medics also provide check-ups and medicine.
“I didn’t realize it was going to be this big,” Pertiwi head Munirah Hamid said, and added that the crowds of needy are growing.
Azmina is now looking for another volunteer hairdresser to meet the demands of homeless people like Paul Chin, who lives on the street after he lost his job at a car-wash several months ago.
“It’s very annoying,” Chin said shyly of the overgrown shock of graying hair crowning his head as he settled onto Azmina’s stool.
By the time Azmina’s scissors stopped snipping, someone waiting in line shouted: “He’s a new man!”
“Now I feel good,” Chin said, running his hands over his newly trimmed top before disappearing among the crowd of homeless people.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”