HAIRDRESSERS are helping to change lives by taking their skills to some of the world’s poorest people.

Husband and wife John and Katy Allen, from Guiseley, are involved with schemes which aim to teach a skill to needy people around the globe.

The couple were inspired to help out in Cuba by the work being carried by the island’s most famous hairdresser, Papito, who set up a school to teach the trade to underprivileged children - giving them the chance to make a living.

John went out to Havana last year with his daughter Bronte to teach students and to donate scissors to hairdressers and barbers.

The family is also offering financial support and equipment to a number of different charities in the UK and around the world.

In January 2017 they set up the Leeds branch of Haircuts4Homeless at the Crypt,

Stewart Roberts, who launched the project in other parts of the country, said: “It may be ‘just a haircut’, but it’s the kindness shown that makes a homeless person know that people really care.”

The Allens became involved with the scheme after offering to supply equipment and being asked to set something up in Leeds. They now run regular sessions at The Crypt, offering haircuts to some of the poorest people in society with the help of other hairdressers from around the area.

John said the simple act of kindness had a “massive” effect on people who were used to being treated so badly.

“I could tell you some horror stories,” he said. “They get people urinating on them in doorways. People have spat at them or tried to set fire to them.”

“We have got a good team of people who go down there on their day off.

“We have this phrase - ‘changing lives one haircut at a time’ - and I think that just about sums it up really.”

The couple recently won a national award for their own scissor company which they set up two years ago. Akito scissors won the Best Emerging Hair Brand at the National Hair and Beauty awards in May. Their son Riley Allen has recently joined the business, which now sends scissors to 21 countries.

The couple said: “After speaking to many other hairdressers over our career (77 years between us) we realised the lack of knowledge we all had about our main tool, the scissor. The research and learning began in 2006 and we were lucky enough to be introduced to a retired Japanese scissor-smith who taught us the skill of sharpening scissors and the fundamentals of metals used in production and the benefits of the different ergonomic designs.

“Our aim: To pass on the knowledge we have gained to the hairdressing and barbering industry empowering them

to make a more informed choice when purchasing scissors and reducing the risks of them developing RSI and carpal tunnel problems through the career.”

The Allen’s have created an in depth course - called ‘Scissorology’ - which has been launched in Cuba, India and Spain and which will be launched in the UK this year.

Akito scissors donates five per cent of profits each year to hairdressing charities.

One of the charities they support is Mission in Mumbai which works to help women who are trapped in desperate circumstances.

John, who supplies equipment for the charity, said: “These women are street workers or trafficked. The idea is to keep sending hairdressers out there to give them a skill so they don’t have to work as prostitutes any more.”

The women are given hairdressing and beauty training at the non-profit Oasis Academy, set up by UK hairdresser

Zac Fennel and Oasis International.

The academy helps victims of human trafficking and forced labour, giving them a pathway to full time employment and rehabilitation into society.

Other charities supported by Akito are the Hairdressers’ Charity; CIVs Kenya - a community development organization fighting poverty through various volunteering and community development programs; and the Lions Barber Collective, which works to help raise awareness for the prevention of suicide.