Joshua Coombes offers free haircuts to the homeless in the UK and is trying to change the way people use social media
How often do we do something for someone without expecting something back? Or how often do we pass a homeless person and just give them a few pounds, without taking the time out of our day to speak to them and give them the courtesy of a genuine conversation?
This is something Joshua Coombes is trying to change through the #Dosomethingfornothing movement, where he travels across London and offers his services as a hairdresser to the homeless. No strings attached, a free haircut and a genuine chat is what Coombes offers to his clients.
Coombes, 28, who is originally from Exeter, left his job as a hairdresser at a high-end salon and decided to change his life completely in the hope of helping others. He is in partnership with @London Instagram – which has over a million followers – and is also helped by his friend of ten years Matt Spracklen, who documents Coombes’ homeless clients in the hopes of inspiring others to help without expecting anything back.
Last year when I attended the @London Instagram worldwide meet-up, it was the first time I had heard of Coombes and the #Dosomethingfornothing movement. At the time Coombes had roughly 4,000 Instagram followers, however now due to a BBC interview video of Josh that went viral on social media, he now has 183k followers.
At the Instagram meet up the attendees were encouraged to find anyone in need and offer them something, whether it be a few pounds, a hot meal or even just a genuine chat to see how the person was doing. At first, you could tell people were a bit apprehensive to go out and actively find homeless people, but the end result was heart-warming.
People went home knowing they put smiles on faces that may have not felt like smiling for months on end because of their current situation. Coombes says that the movement is to promote compassion: “We’re raising compassion, not awareness.”
As we all know, social media is saturated with “influencers”, people who have a large following who are social media “famous” because of something that is most probably related to they way they look or their lifestyle. How often do we come across an influencer who uses their platform to promote something good? That is why Coombes’ story is so refreshing – because through the #Dosomethingfornothing movement, he is trying to encourage people to help others not just through money but time also, he says: “if you want to feel good, do good. It is in your power.”
And it is as simple as that. He knows what a big impact social media has today and that is why he encourages people to share images of them giving back to their community through his hashtag.
Coombes’ Instagram rarely showcases himself, instead he has used this platform to share the stories of his clients, sometimes they are reluctant to share their name but it’s about their story and he hopes that their stories can ignite something in others and that this movement can promote having more compassion and understanding for others.
Coombes tells us that when he started this: “I wasn’t in thee best place in my life and this was exactly what I needed. This is something that really humbles you, the lesson you take is to not take what you have for granted, to appreciate what you have and to be connected with the world a lot more. When I do this I feel connected with humanity. It doesn’t matter what people share with me, I always learn something from the people whose hair I cut.”
Advice is something coombes has always been scared of giving and receiving because he feels its based on nostalgia, who you are and what you’ve experienced. For this reason, he doesn’t leave his clients with words of advice but rather words of motivation. He says: “I hope to leave them with a fuller heart, maybe not completely full but slightly, knowing that someone cares.”
Coombes’ charitable work had been recognised by local news but more recently he has been featured on international channels in Brazil and South Korea. The Mail online, Metro, The Telegraph and also the front page of Mashable are just to name a few that have told Coombes’ story and helped him promote his movement.
As world food day took place recently, we at _shift feel that Coombes’ story is just another reminder of how we can give back in big and small ways. We all have the capacity to be more aware of the people we come across in our daily lives and think more actively about how we as individuals can impact those lives in a way that may be small to us but can significantly help someone else.
Just like Coombes uses his social media platform in a positive manner to promote being better human beings, maybe we as young adults who are social media savvy, can think about this the next time we post to Facebook or Instagram. Just like Coombes has used his platform for the greater good, so can we.
All images courtesy of Noor-u-nisa Khan