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Making A Difference: Long Time Supporter, First Time Volunteer

Making a Difference: Long Time Supporter, First Time Volunteer

by Catherine Yeung

Volunteer, Catherine Yeung offers support and manicures at Beauty Night
Volunteer Catherine Yeung offers support and mini manicures to Beauty Night participants.

Last night was the first time I've ever volunteered on the front lines of my friend Caroline's charity, Beauty Night Society.  The core of Beauty Night's multi-faceted work is providing makeover & wellness services to women in poverty, bringing dignity to and building self-esteem in individuals in the most marginalized segments of society.

Arriving at last night's Beauty Night venue for the first time, I wasn't sure what to expect - responding to a last-minute call for volunteers, I had joined last night's crew of volunteers on a day's notice, not having had the chance to attend the volunteer orientations held monthly.  But... Caroline knows me very well, so she had reassured the quick learner in me that everything would be fine...

As for last night's venue, MPA Resource Centre is located in Vancouver, serving as a community setting which provides support and services to individuals dealing with mental illness.  The volunteer crew arrived at 5:30 to set up our mini-spa, and I received a quick briefing on what I'd be doing at the manicure station, with the amazing collection of spa supplies that our lovely volunteer coordinator had brought.

Gloves?  Check.  Nail polish remover?  Check.  Cotton pads?  Check.  Q-tips?  Check.  Nail files?  Check.  A diverse selection of a dozen or so nail polishes, from a seemingly infinite bag of polishes?  Check... Glittery and shimmery polishes here we come! #BecauseGlamSquad. My first manicure client arrived before we even had our mini-spa completely set up, having already had her name down first on the sign-up sheet.  Her existing nail polish had been chipping off, so it was time for me to glove up to remove that old polish and do some nail shaping, as she picked a vibrant new shade to adorn herself with, a bold and classy, shimmery dark blue.

After asking how she'd been doing, I listened as she enthusiastically shared about her daily activities.  Amidst living with disability, she was keeping busy and continually bettering herself, attending book clubs and self-improvement courses.  I complimented her lovely costume jewelry, and noted her recommendation of the store where she'd gotten it. She related to me how she'd quit smoking and was trying to encourage some young women she knew to quit as well, but that they weren't having any of that yet... "Someday, those young women would eventually come around to quitting smoking," I told her. They would eventually come back to her and thank her profusely for it, I said.

She was super proud to be getting back into fitness and was kicking off her weight-loss journey, so we discussed fitness, exercise and her healthy eating plan... While listening to her speak of trying to help the people in her life who still ate tons of unhealthy food, I reiterated that her top priority was taking care of herself and improving herself, because people will not make changes until they're truly good and ready, and by continuing to keep improving herself, she would inspire positive change all around her through living by example.

Having never met this lovely woman until tonight, I made sure to let her know how amazing it was and how proud I was that she was doing such a great job working on improving herself. It took talking to this client for me to realize how I am a self-improvement/fitness/wellness advocate and cheerleader everywhere I go...

After her manicure was finally dry and she needed to get going, tears were in her eyes - she had been so moved by my support.

Anyway, I'm a software engineer, and not an esthetician, so I now realize that after I had tidied up my nail polish missteps with a Q-tip, I had neglected to finish off her manicure with a topcoat - but I don't think she noticed or cared. I had been expecting to help people last night - but exactly how, I had not yet realized.  My inner esthetician? Still in training... The inner cheerleader I had not realized I had? I watched her emerge when helping women dealing with survival and significant challenges, moved by their struggles and by their progress. Through uplifting & encouraging them towards working to change lives, both their own and others, I not only helped them, I helped myself.

Sending a big thank-you to Beauty Night Society's amazing clients and volunteers!