So a few weeks ago at TEDxRenfrewCollingwood—you guessed it, I volunteered to shoot the event—I met a bunch of pretty (really really) cool people, including Caroline MacGillivray, founder of the Beauty Night Society. Little did I know that she’d been helping to restore women’s dignity in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for the past 13 years, and that her and her team have given over 36,000 makeovers to date. Like many others, I was at first skeptical of how makeovers could really help disadvantaged women, and how this was a better alternative to any of the numerous food and clothing drives that often take place. But then I heard Caroline’s talk about how feeling “clean” was what the women said they wanted, and how beauty could make way for self-esteem, and how self-esteem could change lives.
Well yesterday, I dug a little deeper and saw it all for myself. Caroline invited me to snap pics at their Halloween themed Beauty Night, and what I saw—what I felt—was something familiar but so different and new and strange at the same time. It was like being in a room full of people you thought you might have known and hung out with all your life but really only just met.
I’ve been to other volunteer events where members of the community come out to help out strangers; and I’ve been to events where those strangers see each other on an ongoing weekly basis. But the feeling of warmth, support, positivity, and sense of community that I got being in that room far surpassed any one event I’d ever been to. I guess there’s something really special about giving foot and back massages, make-up applications, haircuts, and polished manicures to strangers. (Who doesn’t like those things?) I guess that seeing women empowering other women in need really resonates with me.
It seemed to me that there was not one person in the room who didn’t have their spirits lifted that night. And when you get together to volunteer, whether it’s giving makeovers or cleaning a ravine*, really good things happen. People make connections, the sense of community grows, hearts grow bigger… and change takes place.
As for me: I’m the documenter. View my photo album of Beauty Night here.
* See Carmen Rosen’s TEDxRCW talk coming soon to YouTube—Carmen also happens to be the Artistic Director of the Still Moon Arts Society, who I shot photos for last month (view the album here).