A Salon Guru Tackles Child Hunger
By Dustin Quick, Guest Contributor (Canada)
When you think about businesses and charity—especially during the Holiday Season—does the word
“opportunistic” come to mind? We live in very perilous times. Cynicism is the order of the day. Displays
of genuine altruism seem dwarfed by hard-heartedness, self-centeredness, and instant gratification. I
don’t know about you, but when I see glimmers of hope, I get really excited. I had the pleasure of sitting
down with Olivia Gurun, the owner of Salon Guru (Windsor, Ontario), and I quickly realized that for her,
charity is not just a “thing” that is done at specific times and places, and it’s definitely not a money-grab;
it’s even more than a “mindset” . . . it emanates from the spirit.
When asked about the biggest challenge of owning her own business, Olivia stated, “If you want
to make it work, you have to give . . . and give . . . 100 percent of yourself.” Sure, that can apply to the
particulars of everything that being an entrepreneur entails, but the more I spoke to Olivia, I understood
why she stressed the word “give” so much. It’s about giving back to the community; specifically, it’s
about making sure children are fed and inspiring the younger generation to contribute to the effort.
This past Thanksgiving, as she was getting her hair done, the principal of an inner-city grade
school told Olivia, with tears in her eyes, “My students have nothing. We’re feeding them chunks of
tomato and cheese slices for breakfast. They don’t have food at home.” Those tears of sorrow moved
Olivia. Salon Guru’s Thanksgiving food drive, which lasted four days, raised over $500 in food, plus
additional cash donations. It was a great start, but Olivia wanted to do more. A number of people
weren’t able to contribute to the Thanksgiving drive. It came about spontaneously—as it was inspired by
a woman’s tears, rather than a marketing team concerned with the bottom line—and there were time
constraints: Thanksgiving was only days away.
The Christmas (2012) food drive began on December 1, which has given people more time to donate.
Although Salon Guru has a Facebook page, this time around, Olivia was sure to take full advantage of
social media by creating a YouTube video about her endeavor. The most recent round of food donations
(plus $600 in cash) was collected by the principal, who, again, was in tears, on December 8. And it’s a
good thing, too, because clients “couldn’t move in the salon . . . it was crazy,” Olivia recounted.
Windsor, Ontario, which borders Detroit, Michigan, has its share of first-world economic woes,
recovering, as it is, from a hard-hitting 2008 recession. But still, when you think “Windsor,” child hunger
is certainly not the first thing that comes to mind. Olivia and I talked about the younger generation’s
normative conception of child hunger, and we agreed that all we have to do is turn on the TV, and from
the comfort of our couches (our “bubbles,” as Olivia put it), we can momentarily sympathize with, for
example, starving African children—you know, the “extreme” cases. When we want to forget, we simply
change the channel. After that, it’s back to grumbling over the cost of our last cell phone bill. This
distorted and skewed view of poor and hungry children blinds many of us to the reality that there are
suffering, marginalized youth right in our own backyard.
In terms of what we can do to end child hunger by 2015 . . . it is indeed a lofty goal; some may
even say “impossible.” Social media, which are directed, in large part, to the younger generation, have
contributed to the size and scope of our “bubbles,” our being disconnected from the real world. Why
not use these tools, as Olivia has poignantly done, to shed light on child hunger at the local level? So far,
Salon Guru’s Christmas food drive, which began with a simple YouTube video, is anticipating over $2000
in food—and that’s not including the cash donations. Olivia suggests that hundreds of salons and other
businesses across North America consider similar initiatives, which, of course, don’t have to be
restricted solely to holidays. In this context, social media can be a powerful means of re-establishing that
increasingly elusive human connection. What if individuals and business owners, whose hearts are
drawn to this cause, made YouTube videos to showcase child hunger and promote year-round food
drives in their respective cities? It can make a difference; it does make a difference. The good news? To
help, you don’t need to own a business; you don’t need a lot of money; and you don’t need to be in a
position of influence.
So, what does the future hold for Olivia and Salon Guru, when it comes to ending child hunger
by 2015? She wants to continue to partner with local schools and soup kitchens, as well as contact major
corporations, such as Kellogg’s. We shared a laugh when she reminded me, “There’s always Oprah;
there’s always Dr. Phil.” However, I knew, even in the midst of that lighthearted moment, that she
was dead serious about taking her commitment to a higher level. When like-minded individuals decide
to network and utilize social media—in combination with their desire to help uplift hurting, hungry
children—there’s no limit to the mountains that can be moved, the hearts that can be touched, and
the resources that can be generated and directed. Regardless of how humanity continues to advance
technologically, if we want genuine progress, we must start with self-reflection. What are our motives?
What (or who) is our responsibility? Olivia shows us how to evaluate our intentions behind good deeds.
She reminds us of our responsibility to those too young to care for themselves: “What breaks my heart
is imagining this poor little girl or little guy sitting in class, watching somebody eat a lunch and keeping
their head down, because they’re too embarrassed to say that their parents can’t afford to feed them.
That’s not going to happen in my city, if I have anything to do with it.”