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All things beauty and then some. Andrea Claire has been a hairstylist and makeup artist for 23 years now. A Canadian based in Singapore since 2007, she has appeared on Asia's Next Top Model, Yahoo Asia, Canadian Idol, So Chic and more.

Get Ready Girls, Cambodia (trip 2)

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By Andrea Claire · May 21, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

Oh, where to begin. 

If you had read my blog about my first trip to Phnom Penh you may recall the eye opening experience I had - I had the opportunity to meet some children who live in the slums and are receiving some support from Riverkids as well as some women in the sex trade who shared with me many shocking answers to a private interview session such as many of their foreign clients refuse to wear condoms and are aggressive with them. AIDS is high risk to these girls and the men who bed them.

Since my first trip was affected by the food poisoning that I received from Raffles Hotel I had vowed to my group of Get ready Girls that I would return. 

Riverkids Get Ready Girls was the group I went to teach hair & makeup workshops to.

This time I was able to spend more time with the girls for a solid 2.5 days of beauty - hair & makeup workshops to young girls at high risk for being put into the sex trade / human trafficking.

I started with a few braided updos and encouraged them to not give up if it is their first attempt at French braiding, but then those whiz kids did this:

I asked for a little lesson from them on how to do this fab 'pumpkin braid' as they called it via translator.

It is rare for families who live in the slums to have electricity so I showed the girls how to do these updos without the use of heat. Notice the sock buns in the centre picture?

FYI: I hope that I was a good enough teacher that these girls could duplicate these hairstyles, but aside from the Bunheads, all of these updos were done by me demoing to the girls. My biggest tip for anyone tackling an updo: isolate your areas.

Sock buns! These girls loved perfecting it - some not without frustrations. Practice makes perfect buns.

I gave them a little pep talk on starting a business; four of my eleven girls are motivated to run a beauty salon - I predict successful ones as these girls were naturals - hopefully the girls and their families see the value in what they can do.

It's not uncommon to see roadside barbers.

Life is from far from beautiful in Cambodia. These two kids grabbing a snack in the rain are trash collectors looking for bottles and cans to trade for money in order to help feed their families. I can't tell you how filthy the streets of Phnom Penh are; notice one boy is without shoes. It breaks my heart. These innocent little boys can one day be whisked into the human trafficking world or perhaps drug dealers, even pimps. 

One night, on the way to dinner we saw a mother with three young children at the side of the main road. The mother had built a cardboard hut on the sidewalk with old chairs and boxes; she was lounging on a chair while at her side stood a naked toddler, his siblings not much older playing on the road. Roughly one hour later, we were in a tuk tuk returning to the hotel passing that same corner. The mother and two older ones were gone - nowhere to be seen. Left standing was the naked toddler. Still horrified when I arrived to my Get Ready Girls class the next day I asked the teacher who had been translating for me about this. Apparently this is common practice. She told me that the mother is probably hoping he gets taken or hit by a car.

No words. It still haunts me.

Organizations like Riverkids offer programs for boys too - Get Ready Boys,  but we also stumbled upon (actually it was Google) that had listed Friends as one of the top ten restaurants in Phnom Penh which turns out to be a vocational training restaurant for street youth.

BTW, they have amazing cookbooks for purchase. Click

"The Friends Programs ensure that all children and youth are protected from risks and abuse and support children to go to school, young people to find gainful employment and families to be able to support their own children.

In order to achieve this, the Friends Programs have developed a holistic social integration cycle of projects that are implemented directly or in collaboration with partners to respond in the most effective way to every person's needs." Friends-International.org

My boutique hotel that I adored; first, no food poisoning; second (which is really a major first) - the owner has been known to physically remove patrons who bring in sex trade workers. That sent shivers through my body as well as confirmed any future trip to Phnom Penh would result in my staying at The Pavilion Hotel.

Please allow me to thank:

Faz Abdul Gaffa - my BFF who tagged along last minute giving a helping hand as well as ate a tarantula at Rumdeng, part of the Friends International program. [Just to clarify: eating the spider is not part of the program - the restaurant that serves it is]

MAC Cosmetics for their continued support and donating makeup kits for each girl. 

Maybelline Singapore for also providing each girl with a kit of makeup.

Luxola for their beauty box full of various products for the girls to play with.

AccessCom for sending a box of magazines and bottles of Bio-Oil

And various individuals for sending brushes and treats for the girls.

All was shared and received with smiles.

Please feel free to connect with Riverkids on their Facebook page.

**Tourists please reconsider hiring a sex trade worker in Asia. Most likely these are girls without the choice taken or sold into crime. And as much as you may think a ping pong show in Thailand is intriguing to watch, I can assure that no little girl dreams of growing up and shooting ping pongs or birds out of their vaginas.

Get Ready Girls makeup workshop in Cambodia

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By Andrea Claire · January 23, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

It's amazing how no matter how long I have lived in Asia I can never get used to what I see traveling outside of Asia-light (Singapore).

On my recent trip to Cambodia my sole purpose was to do some work for a local organization - Riverkids Project. I struggled with whether I make it public within my friends, peer group and social media that I was doing this. Why the struggle? I didn't want to come across: "Look at me! Here I am doing humanitarian / charity work." But then the more I read through the Riverkids site the more I felt that this is something more that we all need to be aware of. Sex workers and human trafficking exists -  sadly in many countries. You can chill on Tweeting to the world that you bought the car behind you Starbucks, but the realities such as the sex trade and human trafficking need to be shared.

In order to become acquainted with the community that I was helping we joined in on an advocacy walk - my 18 year old daughter came with me.

This image is from my trip but not of the advocacy walk.

At 6 am we followed an 11 year old trash collector who wasn't wearing shoes on the filthy streets of Cambodia. (BTW the child was the size of a 7 year old from being malnourished.) My 18 year old daughter squealed and side-stepped avoiding a very plump, dead rat. Something to be said about the rats having more food than the malnourished children of Cambodia…

Children in Cambodia can be so malnourished that as babies some of their bodies grow much slower than their heads therefore carrying around weight that is unbalanced.

Back at Riverkids main house I had an opportunity to interact with the children being sponsored by Riverkids to attend elementary school. 7 am and they were all given a breakfast of porridge and an egg. I had our hotel (Raffles) prepare a picnic lunch for Sage and I which was brought out for us to eat with the children - not only did I have breakfast already but sitting with gourmet boxed lunches full of fruit, cheese, chicken sandwiches and salad with roughly 20 children eating porridge that could be their sole meal of the day didn't sit well. I opened up the boxes and walked them around the tables - they all waved their hands 'no'. At first I thought the children were like any other child: Fruit?!?! But then I realized they were just shy. I sat the boxes at various tables and soon the gourmet food was being devoured.

I interviewed the trash collector through a translator. I asked about her family - she has siblings all living with her; but that is not the case for every family; some of the older children are sold in order for the balance of the family to be able to eat. This child had started trash collecting with her mother 5 years ago - collecting cans and bottles to exchange for money. I asked where her shoes were. She shrugs. A slightly older girl came over and gave her flip flops although about 3 sizes too big. It was such a moving moment that I had to hold back tears. Clearly this other girl is living a similar risky living condition and she so generously handed over shoes - maybe this was her second pair where some of us have over 30.

Another stop in our day was to visit a classroom full of teenagers ages 14-16. We were met at the door with enthusiastic teens high-fiving and thrilled to see us. Completely enthralled with Sage's milky white skin the boys asked if my 18 year old was yet married.

We tread on with our day.

While visiting one project community a little boy ran by shoeless in his branded t-shirt 'I Could Be Your Son' - sigh...  yes you could.  Unaware what impact that his t-shirt has. He could have been anyone's son. Interesting how the statement on his shirt could have a different meaning if you are back home watching a spirited boy take over a playground versus a child living in the slums of Cambodia.

We stopped at a film centre and watched 'Paper Cannont Wrap Ember' - a detailed shocking documentary following the daily lives of some Asian women who were violated and trapped in a life where their bodies are turned into items of sexual commerce. One sex trade worker expressed how foreign men aren't afraid of death as they refuse to wear condoms.

One woman bears the weight of getting her younger sister involved in the sex trade who was taken to Thailand by a customer who liked her only to be returned to Cambodia months later where it was discovered that she now had AIDS. Periodically she would get medication when it could be afforded. She suffered on and off until her death.

Meeting sex trade workers was another shocking reality. Many sex trade workers were once garment factory employees who either lost their jobs from factory closings or left voluntarily from just a lack of sufficient wages. $64 USD a month - and with the lack of jobs available for men - wives, girlfriends, mothers, and daughters are forced into sex trades as they make more money turning tricks to support their families risking diseases such as HIV.

Of course wages are set per country and their living standards but should these types of living standards be acceptable? Of course not.

A question arises: Should clothing labels and manufacturers have a responsibility to make their wages public knowledge by a simple click of a button?

H&M and Joe Fresh are two labels in my closet whose tags read: Made in Cambodia.  I am looking at those outfits differently. I've worked with Joe from Joe Fresh - I would love to know his thoughts and if he has personally toured the factories who manufacture his line. I am not suggesting anything here with the Joe Fresh line - I am truly curious.

Should we stop buying from labels made in Cambodia? No - because without the demand of clothing being made in the factories the inevitable would happen.

You can find a list of cruelty-free cosmetics; anyone know if there is a similar list for sweatshop-free labels and garment factories?

I don't see myself as political, nor do I see myself as an activist but I am a human being and to walk amongst a society that clearly needs help I feel that it's a global responsibility.

Children should not be bought or sold in order for a family to eat - where by the way some are sold for $300 USD which partially goes towards wine and typically lasting 3 weeks. Your child just gave you 3 weeks of food and drink in exchange for her innocence.

Rats should not be plumper than our children.

Our women  - mothers, sisters, daughters - should not be earning money for their families while on their backs.

Riverkids has a few programs to help educate and train the men and women of Cambodia to strengthen their society. Get Ready Boys and who I came to work with: Get Ready Girls - vocational training to help keep the future of Cambodia out of the sex and human trafficking trades.

"Get Ready Girls
Our Get Ready program prepares teenage girls between 11 and 21 years old who are highly at risk for trafficking and exploitation through intensive training to return to school, start vocational training or apprentice at safe jobs.
The program runs for three to 12 months, and covers Khmer language and basic math lessons, social and work skills, as well as breakfast and lunch.
Each program is small, with just 12 to 15 girls so they can support each other. Their families receive aid to replace the teenagers’ lost income from working on the streets at night so the teens can concentrate on class instead of being pressured to drop out.
For some girls, it’s only a few months and they’re full of confidence and ready to return to
school. Other girls need intensive counseling and training before they dare to imagine a different future to being sold.
We’ve seen more than 60 girls graduate from Get Ready with an 85 percent success rate."

I had booked two days with the Get Ready Girls for a hands-on makeup workshop that condensed to one day as I ended up with food poisoning. Quite badly actually. Which by the way - unless you have money you won't get medical care, it's all private.

This was my class of Get Ready Girls. We had a GREAT day. Conducting a workshop via translator was easy. The girls had a blast and pleaded with me to come back - I was never going in with the thoughts that this was a one time feel good project - I willl be back.

Special thanks to the companies who gave support for the Get Ready Girls makeup workshop:

MAC Cosmetics who sent makeup brush sets and Lipglass sets for each of the girls.

MAC has raised $275 million since the inception of the MAC Aids Fund in 1994.  The Fund supports a number of projects globally in countries such as Haiti, Jamaica, The Dominican Republic and S. Africa to name just a few. On every Dec 1st, an army of MAC employee volunteers descend upon charities in local communities to volunteer their time supporting HIV/AIDS related charitable organizations.

Australian-based celebrity makeup artist Rae Morris sent copies of her amazing makeup books to help start the beauty library at the Get Ready Girls classroom.

Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh who gave us a discounted rate during our stay.

*All images are mine taken with my HTConeS.

**My flights, accomodations, meals and unforseen medical bills were all paid by me.

Holiday Gift Ideas || charity edition

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By Andrea Claire · December 13, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

It is the season to give and if you are stuck on what to get that special someone why not give them the gift of helping others? Wondering how you would wrap a donation? Simply get a nice card and print out the 'about us' page or receipt from the charity. You could make a homemade card with the help of your children so they learn the very best about giving from the heart and helping others.

Room to Read 

We envision a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world.To achieve this goal, we focus on two areas where we believe we can have the greatest impact: literacy and gender equality in education.  We work in collaboration with communities and local governments across Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the life skills they’ll need to succeed in school and beyond.

RiverKids has many programs which include their Bootstraps scholarships that help women commit to vocational training by sponsoring training fees and income replacement so they can concentrate on their training and new jobs. They have seen more than 60 women already graduated into safe jobs in hairdressing, housekeeping, cooking and sewing. We have a waiting list of women eager for a second chance.It’s always easier to face the future with friends. The women from Bootstraps are drawn from our Helping Hands clubs. We now have two clubs for young women aged 16 and up who are involved in the sex trade, one club for those with children and one for single sex workers.Gently supported by volunteers and social workers, the Helping Hands Clubs bring them together to talk and bond. Outings to fun places like the waterpark or behind-the-scenes at a restaurant give them a chance to be ordinary young women and see new opportunities. Thanks to the friendships they’ve formed, they have the support they need to succeed in Bootstraps.

joinFITE is an active philanthropy platform, powered by Kiva.org and championed by Dermalogica, that connects you to women entrepreneurs who need a hand up. By providing women access to small loans [micro-finance], they are able to start or grow a business, bettering themselves, their families, and their communities. joinFITE is a fun and easy way for you to help another when you activate a donation from our partners.

joinFITE is focused on investing in women because we agree with thought leaders like the World Bank and Kofi Annan, that women are tremendous, untapped investments that yield huge returns for entire communities. When a woman develops her own sustainable business, not only does she improve her own situation – but her entire community benefits through a multiplier effect of change.

And yet, investments in women are not yet being made. Women are traditionally more likely to be denied a loan by a bank and often face high levels of financial discrimination. We see tremendous potential to make a significant impact by filling this gap between what women can do and what women need.

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics.Our mission is to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children. The children receive hair prostheses free of charge or on a sliding scale, based on financial need.

*You can donate hair or cash.

Feel free to share links of other charities below.

Help 80 women out of sex work into safe jobs

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By Andrea Claire · January 1, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Last year I decided to give to charity vs gifts for clients and friends. This year I have decided to do the same.

The charity I have chosen is via RiverKids.org to help 80 women get out of sex work and into safe jobs. {click it!

Bootstraps help young women aged 16 and up who are involved in the sex trade in Cambodia to commit to vocational training into safe jobs. The women talk and bond through outings to fun places like the waterpark or behind-the-scenes at a restaurant that give them a chance to be ordinary young women and see new opportunities. 60 women have already graduated into safe jobs in hairdressing, housekeeping, cooking and sewing. We have a waiting list of women eager for a second chance.

At the time of this post the charity has less than 5 hours to raise $4,000 from 50 donors by December 31, 11:59 PM EST to earn a permanent spot on GlobalGiving.

GlobalGiving is a charity fundraising web site that gives social entrepreneurs and non-profits from anywhere in the world a chance to raise the money that they need to improve their communities. Since 2002, GlobalGiving has raised $57,544,485 from 247,629 donors who have supported 5,187 projects.

Why GlobalGiving? It has charities listed from all over the world so you can choose which country you would like to support. Each charity is carefully selected and so you know it's legit.  Help 80 women out of sex work into safe jobs may not be your cause but you can log onto GlobalGiving and find a charity that you wish to support. And if you want to give to my charity choice too PLEASE hurry so they can gain a permanent spot on the GlobalGiving site.

Dear RiverKids: As a hair & makeup artist, if I can help with training just let me know. I've emailed you already...

A message from me to you:

Thank you for collaborating with me in 2011. Whether making beautful pictures or coiffing your hair or painting your face, I appreciate your business.


All the best in 2012!

Andrea Claire

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