My name is Sarah Glover and I am the founder of Born to be Beautiful.
Born to be Beautiful is a charity which teaches beauty therapy vocational skills to victims of abject poverty and modern day slavery. Our goal is to restore dignity and hope to lives devastated by exploitation. After each vocational course we give our students a starter kit, uniform and certificate and support them as they get jobs or set up their own business.
We are based in Cambridge in the UK. We work in Uganda and Mumbai, in India. We are run by volunteers, a combination of students and professionals who bring their skills to the table.
I first heard about human trafficking in 2008 and I felt sickened as I realised that slavery is thriving, and although William Wilberforce had worked tirelessly in the 1800’s to abolish slavery it was flourishing. Today slavery is second only to arms dealing in making money worldwide. I was told that little girls and boys, teenagers and young adults are currently being bought every 30 seconds (according to the A21 Campaign ) and sold and used like dogs or worse.
As I listened, I was nauseated, felt helpless and totally useless, as my understanding of what happens in the world crashed over me. My family has always given money to charity and helped people where we could. Truthfully speaking, I felt stupid and deeply shallow that I knew so little of other peoples suffering. I could not stop comparing my very shallow, comfortable lifestyle, where all I truly cared for was clothes, make-up, and holidays. Perhaps I should have been considering what was going on outside my life, and the reality of life for a trafficked person. Feeling overwhelmed, I felt strongly, I needed to be more and do something, anything, but had absolutely no idea what to do.
The idea for Born to be Beautiful came when I was on a trip to India in 2010. At that time I was busy training to climb Kilimanjaro, setting up my own beauty salon in Cambridge, and although I was very keen to be on this trip to see the charity work Vision Rescue was doing, I was certainly not looking to shake up my life in unimaginable ways and start a charity. Nothing could have been further from my mind. However, as part of the trip we were given the chance to visit a rescue home for young women. In my group of nine women, only five were allowed to go. All our names were put into a hat. My name was not called out. I desperately wanted to go but thought it was just not my time. One of the girls whose name had been called out came up to me and said, “Sarah, would you like to take my place?” I jumped at the chance and within moments we were on our way. It was down a very quiet residential street. We were told to go straight inside the house, not to talk or bring any attention to ourselves. Once inside, I was truly shocked by what I saw. Standing before me were what I considered children, little girls of 14 and 15, exactly the same ages as my daughters back in the UK. It was impossible to ignore the stark disparity between these two sets of lives.
The house mothers who looked after the rescued girls were teaching them all they knew; not only how to care for themselves but how to cook and clean. They had made some candles and embroidered flowers on fabric. All the while I was thinking, “Can I sell these candles in London?”. I realised I could not as they were unsellable. Wondering if there was any way I could help, I realised that if I only had a pot of nail varnish and a nail file I could teach these girls a skill. Once trained, each girl could take these simple pieces of equipment wherever she went and make a bit of money.
Life on the streets for the young women was busy, noisy and fueled with adrenaline, fear and the unknown. The only skill the girls had learned so far is how to fend for themselves on the street and sometimes that comes with terrible consequences. And unless we laid another skill over that one, unless we gave them a choice of something they could do to feed themselves, when they and their families needed to eat, that is what they would default to. If they got sick, pregnant or caused any trouble the pimps threw them out onto the street. They cared nothing for them. One day these girls would have to fend for themselves.
Quietly keeping this idea in my heart and thinking it over, I shared my thoughts with a close girlfriend. The very next morning, while resting in the hotel, in the distance I heard running up the stairs and my name being called; “Sarah, Sarah”. My friend rushed into our room, flinging the door back so hard on its hinges it crashed against the wall… As I sat up the words came tumbling out… “Sarah, they need beauty therapists, they need beauty therapists!” As she calmed down and got the story out, she told me that whilst talking to the leaders of Vision Rescue, they had said they wanted beauty therapists to train the girls so they could get work. I was staggered. This was exactly the same as my dream.
After a year of careful thought and planning, talking to people who had already set up charities and reading the UK Charity Commission website, I knew it was time to set up a registered charity. We would need to ask people for donations and it was vital that those giving felt confident they could trust us and donate their hard earned money to a trustworthy cause. It was important to me that if someone wanted to see the real journey of their donation, we could make this possible. I set about asking people I valued to join me and be on the board of Trustees. Born to be Beautiful became a registered UK charity on December 6th 2011.
Our first full-time, two-week course took place in October 2011 in Mumbai to a group of 20 students. We began with manicures and pedicures, as we could bring the students starter kits, uniforms and certificates in our suitcases, and God bless British Airways for always waving us through when we have extra weight! We built a course that is equivalent to Level 1 Beauty Therapy in the UK. We raised money to buy each student a starter kit. We took a small team: a retired teacher, a fashion stylist and a student, and myself. The girls we taught spoke mainly Hindi with a little English so we taught through an interpreter. Once they had passed their assessments they could begin earning money straight away as each one was given a starter kit, a uniform and a certificate.
When you consider that 27 million people worldwide are currently enslaved, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Everyone has an important part to play in changing the world. When we make a jigsaw, every single piece is needed. It takes more than a few individuals; we need the majority to come alongside us and try to make this vision into a reality. I am a beauty therapist, and whilst we are not usually known for our academic brilliance and business acumen, I strongly believe that beauty therapists and the beauty industry have a vital part to play in the solution for victims of human trafficking. I also know that each of you have an important part to play. You probably know that charities not only need your money, we need you to go onto Facebook and ‘like’ us. We need you to sign up to something called Give as You Live, a shopping app that gets the companies you shop with online, such as John Lewis, Tesco and Amazon to donate to us on your behalf. We need you to hold fundraisers to donate money, we need you to spread the word about what we do and help us build a training school. The students we will welcome into those classrooms are victims of unimaginable hardship and brutality. We need you to help us give them an education, something we in the UK take for granted – something that, for the students we work with, is an unattainable dream.
We are currently in talks with our partner charities about setting up our first self-sustaining beauty salon which will fund training for more students. Our goal is to have salons and schools across the world and help introduce sustainable commerce to communities that have been devastated by exploitation and/or war. But we have to set them up first and that is where you come in… What will you do? Join us!