Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 2018 – Twenty-three-year-old Top Sreyleap has every reason to be thankful for the major turnaround in her life today.
From being an unskilled worker with meagre pay, to becoming a nail care and hairdressing professional employed in an upscale beauty shop, earning almost double her previous income, Sreyleap has managed to achieve life-changing success.
This is all due to her determination to acquire a new range of vocational skills and take advantage of the opportunities presented to her over the last two years.
Encouraged by her recent career success and vision, Sreyleap is radiant with hope and is determined than ever to build on her personal and professional development, with the bigger dream of owning her own salon and beauty shop.
Sreyleap’s early life was very tough. She had to leave school at Grade 9 and abandon all hope of studying in order to support her family.
Initially, she worked in a clothes shop as a sales person and after a few years moved on to become a baby sitter, but soon found herself unemployed again.
Jobless at the age of 21, Sreyleap craved a vocational skill that would strengthen her employability. Her interest was in hairdressing, but she could not afford the training cost.
She said: “I wished to study hairdressing but I did not know where to go to and I had no money to pay the school fee. My life would have been over without the training. I would not have known where to turn to.”
With a stroke of luck, a friend informed Sreyleap about a hairdressing and beauty course run by Mith Samlanh, an organization based in Phnom Penh that is working to support young marginalized people so that they can improve their life chances.
|Sreyleap demonstrates her styling skill in the Mith Samlanh |
hairdressing centre where she was once a student.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Ayphalla Te
A month after basic training in styling, hair straightening and highlighting, another epic opportunity came Sreyleap’s way when she was selected to join an intensive two-week mentoring programme for 19 hairdressing students and 11 trainees delivered in Phnom Penh by a visiting team of specialists from leading global hair care company Wella.
Sreyleap’s excitement about this event is still evident when she talks about it almost a year later.
She said: “I felt very happy, because it was something I like. Wella mentors only taught me for half-a-month, but I learnt a lot about hair cutting, colouring and highlighting.
“The way they cut was different. From them, I learnt to cut different hair styles, something I had not managed to learn previously.”
On top of mentoring, Sreyleap and her fellow students received a set of salon equipment from Wella to help start their own careers in hairdressing, a gift Sreyleap highly appreciates.
‘Happy’ is a word Sreyleap used several times during our interview to describe her emotions. She also talked about the sense of empowerment and most importantly, the relief of being able to provide for her family.
She said: “I’m very happy that I have the knowledge and I can earn more money. My life has changed a lot.
“In the past, I had nothing. But after I started learning and gained these skills and started to work I could make money for my parents and myself. When I could help my family, I felt a sense of relief.”
Sreyleap is especially thankful to Mith Samlanh, the Wella mentors and UNICEF who collectively have made it possible for her to transform her life and equip her with skills that earn her a competitive wage.
She said: “I would like to thank the people who have tried their best to teach us. Although, sometimes, we could not understand, they have always tried to explain to make us learn. They have encouraged us that if other people could do it, we too could do it.”
Sreyleap and her case manager Peng Mouyly
from Mith Samlanh who has been supporting her career
after she finished her studies with the organization six months ago.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Ayphalla Te
The mentoring programme received by Sreyleap and her peers is part of the UNICEF-WELLA Making Waves Programme, an innovative partnership that unites UNICEF with Wella Professionals.
It builds upon UNICEF’s life skills and education initiatives by adding a component dedicated to training young people in hairdressing skill. This combined approach leverages Wella and UNICEF’s partnership commitment to empowering young people living in poverty.
Through working with NGO partners Friends International, Mith Samlanh in Phnom Penh, Kaliyan Mith in Siem Reap and M’lop Tapang in Preah Sihanouk, the programme equips young people from the poorest and most vulnerable communities with life skills to help reduce their vulnerability and build better futures.
Of the 19 students who underwent Wella hairdressing mentoring in 2017; nine are employed in private hairdressing salons, six are continuing their hairdressing education, three have started their own businesses and one is studying English.
In 2018 and beyond, the UNICEF-WELLA Making Waves programme will continue to offer the gift of education and training to vulnerable young people across Cambodia so that they can escape hardship and achieve their life dreams.