Styling stories: Pam Ku on hairstyling experiences that are a cut above

In the morning before her volunteer shift, Pam prepares her equipment, including carefully sanitizing her scissors and combs for the hospital setting. When she arrives at the Surrey Memorial Hospital Ronald McDonald Family Room, she’ll meet with the coordinator to review relevant information about her clients for the day. Her set-up involves finding an open space and grabbing a chair and a low table. The only mirror is typically a handheld one.

This set-up is not what many are used to at a hair salon, but it doesn’t seem to take away from the experience. 

Pam volunteers as a hair stylist for The Lipstick Project. Her clients are often the family members of premature infants who are still in incubators in the neonatal intensive care. On some days, she’ll also see clients who are patients from other units at Surrey Memorial Hospital.  

Pam reflects on how her understanding of her role has changed over time. “Originally, I thought: It’s very simple. I just give people haircuts!”

She soon developed a deeper appreciation for the impact of her interactions. “Everyone has a different story. I can play a supportive role, just as a listening ear- and give them a nice haircut! A brief moment of happiness in their tough times.”

I am very grateful that I’m part of The Lipstick Project. It’s really meaningful and a great feeling to help others — giving joyful and positive energy to others. Working in the hospital environment especially makes you appreciate and cherish good health. It’s a great opportunity to learn about life, how to live a good life, how to give back to the community. For your entire life, you’re always learning. This is good learning for how to deal with difficult situations. How to have a strong heart. How to love your family more.
— Pam Ku

Pam’s client experiences have been diverse. She remembers a woman from Northern BC didn’t know whether her home was safe during last summer's wildfires while she was here seeking specialized services for her sick child. In a different example, Pam explained how she shaved a father’s head soon after his child’s birth to help fulfil a cultural tradition.

Pam has also provided services at other locations. Mid-December, she drove from Surrey to Vancouver to see a woman at St. John Hospice who had been awaiting a haircut for some time. The woman had been spending all of her time lying in bed and didn’t want to see anyone - she felt messy. It took multiple breaks (to allow the client to rest) to complete the haircut and style, but together they persevered. After a generous application of hairspray, voila! The woman’s spirits were significantly lifted, and her demeanour changed. She even told her daughter she wanted to go out that day and have a social visit. Being a part of the woman’s transformation had Pam singing along to Christmas carols all the way home.

Thank you, Pam, for helping to bring more joy to the world!