Article by Mady McColm
Hello from Kigali, Rwanda! I have traveled to Africa for one week with my internship at Academy of Hair Design. At the Academy, I do social media and admissions for the cosmetology school and I was invited to visit our sister school, Dream Beauty Academy.
Dream Beauty Academy is part of a relief program based through Africa New Life Ministries partnered with Academy of Hair Design, located in Kigali. It offers free cosmetology education provided to select women in the city, many of whom come from homelessness or sex trafficking. They are trained by local professionals in the beauty industry and, after a year of school, are given a kit and supplies in order to support themselves with their trade.
The program was founded in 2012, and it is only one of three cosmetology schools in Kigali, which has a population of 13 million. There is only one, highly qualified instructor who can take a maximum of 15 students in the space allotted.
Since its opening, licensure laws in Rwanda have adjusted, meaning that cosmetologists and barbers now need a formal education and a license to cut hair. Our owner and superintendent organized this exchange in Rwanda in order to help make decisions about compliancy and restructuring of education.
A team of 8 from Academy of Hair Design in Springfield and Austin have travelled to Rwanda. Cosmetology educators and students are instructing the students on new styles and methods. The business leaders have provided supplies and are taking inventory of the space and their future needs.
As for me, I’m doing essentially what I’ve been doing back home, which is making professional business cards, helping students organize their online portfolio through social media accounts, and teaching them effective ways to market themselves in the beauty industry. I also got the chance to help organize a youth program for Africa New Life’s emerging theatre troupe, and spoke to leaders of the nonprofit about the importance of the arts.
All 13 students will be graduating this Friday, so we will have a chance to help prepare them for their next steps. For some, that will be an internship. For others, that may mean finding a job or practicing from their homes.
Before coming to work at the school, we were required to learn about the history of Rwanda. This included visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Learning about the violent history of the country was a humbling experience, but so was meeting dozens of people who are dedicating their lives to making their country and city a better place. Their slogan states, “one people, one Rwanda.”
On our first day, the students were to do free cuts for the Dream Kids, or homeless or displaced youth in the Africa New Life program. The barbers refreshed them on their clipper cuts, as both boys and girls at that age are often shaved bald.
Our second day, two of the cosmetologists taught a new method of applying acrylic nails and brought the system to demonstrate and supplies for the school to keep and use for upcoming classes.
We still have several more days to go, and I am so excited to see what we can learn from these spectacular women and what we can hopefully do to help them.
I have never been to Africa before, and it has been an incredible experience to get to see the city of Kigali, meet new people, and get to help with a project that I am invested in using skills I’ve already developed that can help people. I am honored to be a part of an organization that does not pour money at poverty, but instead helps to alleviate that through education. I feel that many of the organizations that exist to aid often hurt the people that they try to help, but this program is run entirely by local people. I hope that our training made an impact or helped boost the confidence of the graduates, but ultimately we know that they can do this without our influence.
This has been a really powerful experience for me, and I am so thankful for my internship at Academy, as well as anyone who donated to help offset some of the costs of the trip. Also, I love hanging out with my mom, who also got to come.
Photographs courtesy of McColm.