The Goodwill Barber of Za’atari

Syrian refugee teen goes door-to-door to shave elderly and disabled camp residents after completing barbershop training course offered by Save the Children

Omar drew this picture of himself in barber training at Za’atari Refguee Camp through Save the Children’s art therapy program called HEART. HEART helps kids process and communicate feelings related to their experiences.

Omar*, 16, is a Syrian refugee who lives at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, a place he now calls home after his family fled the conflict in Syria. In this sprawling tent city of nearly 80,000, children and teens like Omar have lots of time on their hands but little to do.

That changed for Omar more than a year ago when Save the Children opened a drop-in center for adolescent and teen boys, many of whom work odd jobs in and around the camp to bring money home to their families. The center offers a place for boys to learn and to play. Drop by the center any day, and you will see boys learning math, Arabic, tailoring, mobile phone repair, hairdressing, as well as playing football or ping pong. The center also provides an art therapy and education program — called Healing and Education through the Arts (HEART) — to help the boys deal with their stress and heal emotionally.

Omar was one of the first boys to attend the center, and he immediately signed up for a six-month barbershop training course. “I like this center and the teachers here. When I knew about the barbering training course, I signed up for it and I was really good at it,” said Omar.

Most boys complete the course and take a barbershop kit home to start their own business and earn a living. Omar had a different purpose in mind. He made a good cause out of it. “I shave and cut hair for old and disabled people and for people who cannot make it to a barbershop,” Omar said. “They call me and I take my kit and go to their house for free,” he added.

We asked this goodwill barber of Za’Atari a few questions about his training, the latest hairstyle trends in the camp, and what kind of haircut he would recommend for soccer superstar and Save the Children Global Ambassador Cristiano Ronaldo, who shared Omar’s drawing of a barbershop, on his social channels today, the 6-year mark of the Syrian conflict.

1. What kinds of interesting things did you learn from your barbershop training?

Oil treatment, facials and different hair cuts.

2. Did anything funny every happen during your barber training? For example, did you ever cut a friend’s hair crooked?

No. I’m really good at what I do.

3. What is the most popular haircut among boys at the Za’atari camp?

Fading. It’s the most common and basic haircut. Most boys do it. The hair is short by the face/neck and is longer as you go up the head.

4. Did anyone ever ask you for the “Cristiano Ronaldo” haircut?

I cut hair for older people, none of them has ever requested it. But most of the guys in the camp have that haircut.

5. Cristiano Ronaldo has had a lot of different hairstyles. If you could be his barber for a day, how would you cut and style his hair?

Whatever he likes. I think “fading” would suit him.

6. What would you name the haircut?

I would name it after me, just like Ronaldo’s haircut is named after him.

To learn more about and support Save the Children’s work for Syrian refugee children, go here: www.SavetheChildren.org/Syria

*Name changed for protection.

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