Hairdressing helps patients

Mthunzi Mboxela and his manager at the Friendly Shop, Elaine Smith.

Hairdressing is helping psychiatric patients at Valkenberg Hospital prepare for the world of work.

Patients are learning how to wash, cut, blow-dry, relax and dye hair as part of a work-experience programme the Friends of Valkenberg Trust (FOVT) has run at the hospital for five years.

Trust director Sandra Matthew says tonsorial training is half the programme. The other half teaches retail and food-preparation skills.

“The aim of this programme is to get people exposed to the world of work, in terms of actual skills learnt as well as developing work readiness.”

Hairdresser Rolf Losken, 82, volunteers at the hospital’s hair salon and works closely with the trainees.

“Our hair salon is open on Wednesdays, and we are a team of 12 which is made up of volunteers and trainees.”

The trainers identify which trainee can work well with hair colouring, or with rinsing or with cutting.

“I do their planning and organising for them and I enjoy every moment working with the trainees to help promote their rehabilitation,” he said.

There are six patients in the hairdressing programme and two are learning about retail and food preparation. They were all referred to the programme by the hospital’s occupational therapy department.

“They screen them and then send them over to us for an interview,” Ms Matthew said.

Mthunzi Mboxela, 42, works in the hospital’s Friendly Shop after doing the retail and food-preparation programme as well as a business-management course.

Mr Mboxela was a patient on and off at the hospital from 2003 to 2014. He said he had battled to find work and somewhere to stay. He came through the ranks first as a volunteer at the Friendly Shop in 2015, then as FOVT intern in 2016, a hospital intern in 2017 and finally a permanent employee at the Friendly Shop in May 2018.

Friendly Shop manager Elaine Smith said Mr Mboxela was an asset to the business.

“He interacts with the patients that come to the shop, and with his business studies background, he helps with stock management for the shop.”

Mr Mboxela said: “It has made a difference to my life. It’s my first permanent job, and I am here to show that recovery can happen.”