Frontliners receive free haircuts through this volunteer operation

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In response to frontliners’ call for barbers, ResCute Operation was created to address this need while also providing opportunities for displaced barbers and stylists. Photo from RESCUTE OPERATION

Laguna (CNN Philippines Life) — In the middle of a pandemic, it’s easy to dismiss the little things as unnecessary, even when they actually go a long way. Take haircuts for example. While some would say that these can wait until after the lockdown with barber shops currently closed and most people unable to leave their homes, long hair can be a huge inconvenience to frontliners, particularly in the medical field. Simple as it may seem, such a factor still adds to the already extensive trouble of wearing personal protective equipment suits for long, 12-hour shifts (plus the hour spent taking them on and off).

When digital strategist Acee Vitangcol came across a frontliner’s call for barbers who might be willing to cut their peers’ hair for a fee, he went on to crowdsource leads on Facebook. This effort was well-received, proving just how great this need is — both for the frontliners and for the barbers who lost their source of income due to the quarantine. “That was what sparked the entire thing: the post went viral and, suddenly, I'm waking up to an inbox filled with inquiries from both barbers and hospitals,” Vitangcol says.

Organizations also reached out to offer help financially and logistically. Such is the People for Accountable Governance and Sustainable Action (PAGASA), which Vitangcol calls “the yin to our yang,” whose support helped launch ResCute Operation: Ang Rescue Operation na Pampacute ng COVID-19 Frontliners. The newly-formed initiative, mainly operated by Vitangcol and Jaydee Chun together with PAGASA’s Katrina Stuart Santiago, hopes to address the aforementioned need of frontliners, while also providing opportunities for displaced barbers and stylists.

By helping frontliners through ResCute Operation, barbers are also able to earn despite being displaced due to the ECQ. Photo from RESCUTE OPERATION

“The intent is straightforward: since we're on lockdown and with barber shops closed, frontliners have to contend with long hair that is rather irritating especially under PPE suits,” Vitangcol explains. “On the other end, you have a lot of displaced stylists and barbers who do not have a source of income, again because barbershops and salons are closed. While simple in theory, we hope that through ResCute Operation, with the help of PAGASA who will be subsidizing the stylists’ fees, we get to address different needs across two sectors.”

In their public call for participants, ResCute Operation notes that barbers and stylists, who the team fondly calls “HAIRoes” according to Vitangcol, will be provided with complete protective gear — PPEs, masks, shields, and gloves — to ensure their safety.

Hospitals who will be served by ResCute Operation’s HAIRoes are requested to provide the necessary protective materials, but Vitangcol says that the team is willing to cover the expenses if the hospitals will not be able to. Monetary donations to the project, as well as sponsorships from organizations allow the ResCute Operation team to provide the protective gear to volunteers.

Protocols will also be in place to further ensure the stylists’ safety. Social distancing will be observed in the area, with chairs organized far apart from one another. A disinfecting area will also be mounted where volunteers can wash stylists’ tools after every haircut. Frontliners are also free to tip their stylists, but in order to minimize physical contact, only cashless transactions will be accepted.

Barbers are provided with the complete protection gear to ensure their safety during the activity. Photo from RESCUTE OPERATION

For their first run last April 29 at the Philippine General Hospital, PPEs used were purchased from monetary donations to the team, while masks and shields were provided by the Philippine Wrestling Revolution and Craft-in-Forward respectively. A total of five barbers participated, serving a total of 55 frontliners from PGH. “We expected only 30 frontliners… Luckily, our stylists’ pace was fast, thus we were able to increase the [number of] frontliners we served,” Vitangcol says.

“While we could accommodate more frontliners and stylists, we are limited, of course, by venue and adherence to social distancing. So the tactic now is to have multiple sessions with hospitals to serve more frontliners per hospital,” he adds.

While the project is not exclusive to Metro Manila, ResCute Operation is currently focusing their efforts within the region due to the restrictions of the lockdown. But the team is still set on branching out to nearby provinces such as Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna where they received multiple inquiries from interested barbers who cannot immediately participate because of the lockdown.

For non-barbers who are interested in helping out with the project, Vitangcol says that there are many ways to get involved. ResCute Operation requires volunteers for the disinfecting team, cape team, registration and tallying team, and documentation team. Volunteers can also provide pickup and dropoff services to volunteers and barbers, or can subsidize meals and other costs through donations.

Follow ResCute Operation: Ang Rescue Operation na Pampacute ng COVID-19 Frontliners on Facebook to know more.

The operation observes proper social distancing even at the designated waiting area. Photo from RESCUTE OPERATION