We’ve all heard the saying, ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ and while it sounds good, it can be hard to figure out how you can make a difference. But musician turned hairdresser to the homeless, Joshua Coombes, believes it doesn’t have to be complicated. You just have to #DoSomethingForNothing.
Joshua Coombes has hit headlines for his work styling the hair of homeless people across the globe. At first, Joshua began taking his kit out on the streets after he finished a shift at the salon in Devon. Now, he travels the world - teaming up with other like-minded individuals to make a small difference to the lives of people who live on the street.
But what made Joshua set up shop on the high street, and is his service really necessary? He explains: “I don’t know the solution to eradicating homelessness, the refugee crisis or any illness. I can’t begin to offer up answers. Solutions aren’t really what I’m working towards here. It’s not that I don’t care about the solution, but I’m about today. You can get really hung up by what the solution is, but in fact there's answer and it’s doing something now.”
The very idea of helping can be overwhelming, which is in part what inspired Joshua to begin his social media movement - to show that normal people can do extraordinary things. Joshus created the hashtag #DoSomethingForNothing to shrug off the stereotypes surrounding terms like activism and volunteering, and to show that making a difference doesn’t have to involve marching or dolling out soup - unless you want it to.
In fact, Joshua is a firm believer that doing what you love will serve you better than suffering through something you hate for the greater good. He says: “Volunteering needs a rebrand. Tapping into what people love already, that’s a better approach. I think a lot of charity stuff - it’s so stuffy and it doesn’t feel like it’s actually accessible to people. You have to fill in forms and there’s a lot of rules, and I get there is some need for that, but I really am a believer in using creativity, using your passion, using what you love. #DoSomethingForNothing is about how can you go out today and help someone, even in a small way.”
So do you need to learn how to cut hair to get involved? Not at all. Joshua explains that his social media movement is about far more than cutting hair, or even homelessness.
He says: “We’ve all got something we’re good at, something we can contribute. You might be able to help someone write their resume, or give them some financial advice. And it’s not just about helping people, it might be animals, or the environment that you care about. We’ve all got those different strengths, and if we all do them together, we can make a difference.”
If you’re still not convinced, it’s worth thinking of the personal benefits. Evidence is mounting that helping others can have lasting emotional benefits for you too. Research has shown doing good can make you feel good, that donating your time or money is a better pick me up than a bout of retail therapy, and that acts of kindness can make you happier.
And Joshua agrees. While his intention was simply to make a difference, he quickly found that by helping others he also helped himself. Human connection, sense of purpose and a change of perspective are just a few of the benefits he lists as he explains what #DoingSomethingForNothing has given him.
“Since I’ve been doing this, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. It really is so good for everybody. Don’t look at it as volunteering, it is doing something for you. You get paid in a way you can’t see. We have a lot of potential to do good things, and it’s just waiting to be used.”
Joshua likens the feeling of helping others to that of giving a really great present. While receiving a gift is good - who can say no to a shiny new gadget or fluffy pair of socks - it tends to be the reaction of our loved ones to the gifts we give that really excites us.
“The true asset is what you give not what you take. It is hard to quantify the value of doing something good, it’s not like a stack of money or a flat or anything we buy, because you can’t see it. It’s either there or it’s not. I think we’re all attempting to get the same feeling though - joy.”
So how can you use your skills to make a difference? Joshua suggests looking at what you like doing, and going from there. Here are a few ideas and places to get you started
The Refugee Community Kitchen was created in 2015 to help refugees living in camps in Europe. Made up of chefs, caterers, event organisers and activists, RCK offers nourishing meals and access to fresh food daily. So far 1.5 million meals have been cooked.
If you’ve got some untapped cooking skills or are willing to learn, RCK is in constant needs of volunteers to help: cook, prep, chop, pot wash, bake, stir, and tons more. Find out more here.
Loneliness affects 9 million people in the UK according to a study carried out by the Red Cross. If you’re a bit of a chatter box, or would simply like to make some new friends there’s heaps of ways to connect with other people who would benefit from a phone call, natter over a coffee, or a local get-together.
At first, it might not seem like tech and finding solutions to the global refugee crisis go hand in hand, but non-government organisation Techfugees are here to prove otherwise. The group of over 15,000 likeminded techies, designers and entrepreneurs, organise hackathons, conferences and workshops to find ways to support refugees deal with the problems they face everyday.
If you’re a techie, or have an idea that you’d like to share, visit the website to volunteer your skills or simply find out more.
Our list ends here, but yours is just beginning. Work out what you love and just start doing it. Whether that’s as part of a wider organisation, or on your own, start to #DoSomethingForNothing now. Need more inspo? Connect with the DSFN community by searching the hashtag.
For more from Joshua Coombes head over to Lush Player.