When the boys of V76 get together, good—and stylish—things happen.
The gift of a good haircut can alter a perception. A successful snip or efficacious fade can adjust an outlook. And in the case of V76 Educator Manny Rolon and his worlds-away adventure to India taking scissor and razor to hair can change a life.
Earlier this month, Manny, along with a team of 16 philanthropic hairstylists, photographers, project managers and a videographer, journeyed to India to cut hair and give out basic necessities, including 500 toothbrushes and thousands of shampoo and conditioner packets from V76 by Vaughn. Manny called on the special group of friends—many of whom have spearheaded similar humanitarian efforts in the past like Jenny Strebe and Mark Bustos—to complete the mission and they did so with gusto, giving more than 400 haircuts in three days.
“Connecting with people is so important,” said Manny. “I love that part of my job. Human interaction—whether in the salon or in the slum—and putting a smile on someone’s face is priceless.”
The volunteer trip was made possible through Walk the Walk Community, a new umbrella program that oversees and unites established charity initiatives such as The Heart Project, Be Awesome to Somebody and Vision Rescue. This particular trip received the support of seven charitable organizations.
“The mission of Walk the Walk Community is to go out and give back while simultaneously growing our own community of hairdressers,” said Manny. “There are so many charities that deal with local problems, so Walk the Walk Community Co-founder Cristin Armstrong and I decided that in addition to thinking locally and acting locally, if given the opportunity we would also act globally.”
Thousands of miles from home, Manny and the team brought their skills to three sections of Mumbai—Dharavi, the largest slum in the world, Kalwa, a slum where the team cut hair in a garbage compost, and Sewri, a former slum where they set up a roadside barbershop and got to work.
Manny, who has quite a few stamps on his passport, described the locals as some of the friendliest, most generous and open people he has ever met. To show their appreciation in Sewri, the locals threw multiple ceremonies and gifted the hard-working team with traditional scarves and flowers.
“We had to stop walking every few feet because the people of Sewri wanted to stop and thank us,” said Manny. “I walked away with India in my heart.”
Manny’s most impactful moment came courtesy of a 12-year-old ragpicker with no house and no shoes. The boy, who kept getting skipped due to commotion and overpopulation at the makeshift shop, sat waiting with a stone-cold stare. Finally, it was his turn to sit in Manny’s chair.
“I felt this kid’s energy though his haircut,” said Manny. “His only reaction when I finished the cut was the hint of a smile. We shook hands then he picked up his garbage bag and continued on his journey. Trips like these are a catch-22—It’s hard to see, but I feel like I’m doing something to help.”
Walk the Walk Community will continue with its mantra of education and giving back. The next mission will take place closer to home as Manny hopes to sink his teeth into one international and one domestic project every year.
“I had a rough time growing up, and this industry is the one thing that kept me out of trouble,” said Manny. “I want to elevate this industry that has elevated me.”