Volunteer barbers give free haircuts to asylum seekers in Hell's Kitchen

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Thursday, January 5, 2023
Volunteer barbers give free haircuts to asylum seekers in Manhattan
More than a dozen volunteer barbers said it was their own special way to give back to those who have been through so much. CeFaan Kim has the story.

HELL'S KITCHEN (WABC) -- Hundreds of asylum seekers lined up to get free haircuts on Thursday.

NYC Health + Hospitals and the Westchester Barber Academy partnered up to offer the haircuts to asylum seekers.

Fifteen volunteer barbers, all students and staff, offered 30-minute haircuts at the Watson Hotel on West 57th Street.

Diego Cordona says the experience is allowing him to see hope and a future. He's an asylum seeker from Venezuela who has been in New York for five months.

He has a goal of continuing his profession as an electrician so he can support his family back in his home country.

Ale Laev hasn't had a haircut in almost half a year.

"An opportunity to be involved in society," Laev said.

The volunteer barbers said it was their way of giving back.

"Just slapping the world with love, anything we can do to affect change and we saw that some of the undocumented immigrants were in need, so we came to give our time and our talent," said Charnay Phaire with Westchester Barber Academy.

"One of the things I've been told by asylum seekers which has moved me the most, is this is the first time in New York City, because of New Yorkers, that they felt welcomed in a very long time," said Dr. Ted Long with NYC Health + Hospitals.

Angel Gotoya is not only a barber, he's an asylum seeker from Venezuela himself who has been staying in the hotel.

He said giving haircuts to men who have become his friends is a rewarding experience he never expected.

"They smile a little bit brighter, they're happy with the outcome," barber Richard Smiles said. "So that's something we always encounter because a haircut has that power."

The event was planned to support the asylum seekers at the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center (HERRC) at the Wolcott and Watson Hotels.

Interpreters were also present to help make the appointments easier for the guests and the barbers.

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