Stories of Change

James at his barbershop

James Creates a New Safe Space

Since he was a young boy, James had big dreams. He was an ambitious and studious young boy, confident he would one day become a successful businessman with a happy, stable and safe life. Unfortunately, as he grew older, James realized that his country would never accept him simply because of who he loved. James tried to keep his sexuality hidden for many years, but when it was revealed against his will, he was forced to leave his country and chase his dreams elsewhere.

The first few years after leaving his country were challenging. James found safety in Nairobi but with no community or family to support him, he felt completely lost. As a refugee in an unknown place, he struggled to make money and constantly worried he would not be able to eat. Quickly, his mind shifted from big dreams to fearful concerns about survival.

After a few tough years, James’ new friends connected him to an LGBTQ+ Refugee Led Organization supported by CWS’ Safe Space program. Here James rebuilt the support system he had back home and was given the opportunity to dream again. Despite the challenges he had faced since leaving his country, James did not hold back on his dreams. Through Safe Space, he enrolled in cosmetology classes and began working at a barber shop where he worked 7 days a week for three years straight.

Last year, CWS invited James to attend new training on how to manage a small business. James studied hard and developed a business model to start his own barbershop. His vision was so ambitious, that many of his peers suggested he tone it down a bit. In his heart, however, James remembered the big dreams of his younger self and remained committed to achieving his final goal.

Against all odds, and after years of hard work, James was able to open his own barbershop and nail parlor. He said, “I am always glad that CWS not only empowered us with information about business management but also believed in our dream and supported us with a start-up grant to fuel our dreams.” Thanks to his skill and passion, James quickly developed a loyal clientele and began to make a stable profit.

James’ business has been a major success and offers a growing list of services including barbering, pedicures and manicures, massages and waxing. Now that he has achieved the success and well-being he always dreamed of, James is opening his doors to individuals so that they too can be successful. Using the profit he makes, James offers free cosmetology training to other members of his LGBTQ Refugee Led Organization.

Through his barbershop, James has shown the world his passion, drive and tenacity. Most importantly, however, he has created a safe space where people can be their true selves and feel free to pursue their greatest dreams.

*Note: pseudonyms have been used and faces have been blurred to protect the safety of program participants