The kindest cut: Malaysian charity styles the homeless

The kindest cut: Malaysian charity styles the homeless
Stylist Azmina Burhan (L) cutting the beard of a homeless man in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR - Homeless Kuala Lumpur resident Indera Abha struggles to eke out a meagre existence by selling salvaged recyclables, so personal-appearance concerns understandably take a back seat.

But a Malaysian charity that offers free haircuts along with meals helps him to salvage some pride as well.

"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 homeless need.

"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," said the bubbly 26-year-old.

Azmina joined the charity shortly after its establishment in 2010, helping to give out food and water several times a week.

But after encountering hundreds of homeless who couldn't afford proper cuts, she started bringing along her scissors, apron and a small stool about once every other month.

Each time, she now gives up to 30 haircuts, and growing.

"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 to 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 hadn't washed his hair for months, leaving her hands blackened with dust.

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