Working Gear would not exist without our volunteers. As a way to pay gratitude, as well as inspire, Volunteer Stories is series of interviews that highlight our volunteers’ hard work as well as their experiences with Working Gear. We are excited to introduce our diverse family of volunteers to the Working Gear community.
Alysha Osborne is Working Gear’s Resident Barber
I’m Alysha. I’ve been doing hair for 9 years and have been living in Vancouver since 2012. This city has offered me everything I’ve looked for and haven’t been able to find anywhere else. I am originally from Ontario and slowly worked my way out west.
Q. How long have you been involved with Working Gear/ the Downtown Eastside (DTES)?
A.I’ve been with Working Gear since November of 2017 and have been working with people in the DTES since August of 2017. I went to a hair awards show last year and got inspired. My initial drive was to compete but find a way to give back at the same time. I’d been living in Gastown for a year and had gotten to know the “locals”. It started to irritate me that there was a certain stigma/assumption of the people on the DTES, and I wanted to change that. Everyone I talked to had a story and I quickly became friends with many of them. After talking with my photographer friend Mihailo about my idea, we decided to start doing a project dedicated to the look good, feel good attitude. Soon after, I was so invested in this project that I’m no longer caring for or entering the competition, I am dedicating my time to changing the general perspective of other Vancouverites for people on the DTES.
Q. What is your view on volunteering and volunteerism?
A. I’ve done random volunteer work in the past but nothing that I’ve been as passionate about. Find what inspires you. We have a lot of free time, so find something that resonates with you and just take it from there. My step-mother told me stories of her upbringing. She ran away at the age 14 and by age 19 was a prostitute for 5 years on the DTES. Hearing the stories and her struggles, it really hit home that I am able to help people that are/were in her position and who are trying to move forward in their lives.
Q.What is the most challenging thing about volunteering? What is the most rewarding thing about volunteering?
A. The most challenging is hearing the stories. Whether it be circumstance or the struggle. At the same time, the most rewarding thing is people trusting you enough to tell you their stories. Another reward is seeing a client’s transformation in front of you. A lot of people I see come in shy and quiet and by the time we’re done they’re all smiles, confident and genuinely happy. I don’t ask for anyone to do anything when we take before and after photos, but I’ve noticed a theme where the before is reserved and serious and the after is calm and happy.
Q. What is something about Working Gear you wish people knew?
A. I wish more people knew about this amazing organization. There are so many people in need and the general public always has clothes/tools they don’t need and don’t know what to do with. Everyone that works at Working Gear really cares and goes out of their way to make more happen. It’s a great cause and we need to get the word out there more!
Q. What is your best advice for people who want to get involved in volunteering but don’t know how?
A. When I was starting my project with Mihailo, I got a little lost on how to move forward. There are so many volunteer opportunities out there just Google or ask around. Don’t be scared to ask for direction. These organizations are always looking for help so once you put it out there you will have a lot of opportunity to find what fits best for you.
Photography Credit: Mihailo Subotic of Snap Edit Show Photography