This is my favorite photo of Linda, taken in April, 2016 when she was about a year into her hairstylist apprenticeship. The shop where she trains is located on a quiet road in Tamale, Ghana. The sink where she washes her customer’s hair is under a covered area, but open to the dirt road and the sounds of cars, cycles and chickens. While they are waiting on hair treatments to work their magic, women sit in plastic chairs out in front of the open air shop and share the latest gossip and news with Linda and her hairstyling trainer/mentor, Yunumi. We spent an afternoon with Linda and Yunumi and the clients who entrust their hair to the stylists, talking about everything from shea butter to birth order. There is something uniquely relational about a hair salon, whether it’s in Ghana or the U.S. Maybe it’s the commonality of trying to figure out our hair challenges together - trimming, coloring, hydrating, braiding, weaving, perming. We gather in salons and work it all out.
About every 18 months I get fed up and chop off my hair and last Saturday was the day. I sat in the salon while my hair was worked over, listening to the conversations and remembering the salon in Ghana. Linda has two little children who live with her mother in a rural village three hours away. The Northern Region of Ghana is less populous, and so good apprenticeships are located in the larger cities. Linda wants her children to continue their education in their home village, but she also wants the best training possible so that she can give them a complete education through high school. So the sacrifice she makes for her children keeps her away from them. She sees them every three or four months. Linda's visit with her children coincided with our trip, so we were able to meet Grace and Emmanuel and their grandmother, who is gentle and patient and clearly is taking very good care of the children while their mother is away. It’s been two years and Linda finished her apprenticeship in May. She’s now working her way toward starting her own business and will be reuniting with her children.
On our last day in this small city in the Northern Region, Yunimi brought two large bags of shea butter to the guest house where we were staying. It was a generous and unexpected gift from a woman whose salon was filled with joyful chatter and laughter. We are grateful Linda trained under Yunimu, and we’re confident that during the two years of her apprenticeship she learned more than just how to style hair. Our hope and prayer for all the apprentices in the Rising Village Income Generation program is that they not only learn a skill, but how to make their own shops and salons places where joy, generosity, and encouragement is passed on to their customers and clients.