MHD in Cambodia – Hairdressing Education that Transforms Lives
Founded in 2013 by French NGO Toutes à l’école, Happy Chandara Vocational Training Centre in Cambodia provides underprivileged women aged 17 to 25 with free hairdressing education – giving them the skills, confidence, support and opportunity to launch their careers and transform their lives.
We’ve been proud supporters of the centre since January 2019, providing free MHD licences to all tutors and students. Humbling and inspirational, Happy Chandara is a centre of excellence – it’s a true privilege to be in a position to give back by supporting this incredible cause.
Life is tough for Cambodian women – but Happy Chandara transforms lives
Life in Cambodia is hard, particularly if you’re a girl. Due in part to a scarcity of secondary schools in rural areas, girls are often only educated to primary school level. Add to this the high levels of youth unemployment, and the poverty which makes education unaffordable for many families, and the value of a free educational program begins to hit home.
In response to these challenges, Tina Kieffer the founder of Toutes à l’école, opened the Happy Chandara primary school in 2006, following this up with a secondary school in 2012, the hairdressing training centre in 2013 and a high
school in 2015. Exclusively for girls, this incredible project offer free education as well as healthcare. Currently there are 1400 students and 32 hairdressing trainees.
Hairdressing education delivered by the experts
Having worked with Toni & Guy, Aveda Lifestyle and trained at Vidal Sassoon and Alexandre de Paris, Charya Sam and her partner Michel Mercey – whose career has followed a similarly illustrious path – moved to Cambodia in 2014.
Now Director of the vocational training centre, Charya manages educators, the social team and head office as well as looking after student wellbeing. She’s passionate about sharing her expertise with trainees. “Initially established at the secondary school, the aim of the training centre Is to give Happy Chandara students and young women the opportunity to learn a professional skill,” she explains.
“We decided to move the centre from the campus to the capital of Phnom Penh, positioning the training centre above the Chandara Concept Salon,” Charaya continues. “The idea is to create a salon with international standards, helping to give our students a rounded education and help prepare them for working life.”
As with elsewhere in the world, the beauty industry is incredibly competitive. Experiencing the salon environment – and having the opportunity to get used to nurturing client relationships while speaking English – gives students the edge when it comes to the job market.
So, how did MHD get involved with this wonderful cause?
In 2019, L’Oreal’s 5-year sponsorship of the programme came to an end. So Charya and Michel were on the hunt for a new sponsor with the capability to support delivery of quality hairdressing education. Luckily, their search led them to us!
“Happy Chandara first approached us via our website and we arranged a video call,” MHD MD Mark Butcher explains. “As soon as we discovered that the project helped women with little or no access to education, we were determined to help in any way we could.” MHD immediately signed up to give all tutors and students unlimited access to our platform.
“Our MHD experience has been beyond expectation,” Charya enthuses. “Since our first meeting, they have been in constant contact. We’ve had one-to-one video sessions to help us optimise MHD for students and educators.”
And we’ve been equally impressed with what Sarah Oglesby, our Director of Operations, describes as Happy Chandara’s “exceptional standards.”
Spotlight on Happy Chandara hairdressing education
The Happy Chandara training programme lasts 16 months and includes a 4-month internship in a Phnom Penh or Siem Reap salon. Encompassing lessons in English and maths, ethics, computing and sales & marketing, the course covers both hairdressing theory and practice. Graduates receive a state diploma – C1 and C2 – equivalent to NVQ levels 2 and 3. What’s more, students benefits from free health care for both themselves and their relatives.
“Since 2014, 151 trainees have graduated from the program,” Charya explains. “Of those, 13 have opened their own salons, 65 are employed in salons and 4 are training to become educators. Thanks to the inclusion of classes in English, IT and marketing, one graduate is now the manager of Yves Rocher in Phnom Penh.”
The results are fantastic and testament to the incredible education that Happy Chandara provides. However, it’s not all plain sailing. Finding the funds to continue to grow the program and improve the quality of the education is a constant battle. Charya and her team also have to overcome issues such as poor equipment quality and limited access to professional brands for sale in Cambodia. Internet connectivity and access to computers are also challenges.
The future of Happy Chandara
So, what are the goals for the future?
Charya and Michel are full of ideas to raise funds and expand their network of partners, onboarding more professionals and finding sponsors. For example, hairdressers from France and Japan have visited the project and conducted demonstrations for students.
Ultimately, the goal is to share their passion for hairdressing with as many young Cambodian women as possible, empowering them with the skills and confidence to express their creativity, develop their business skills and change the course of their lives
Who wouldn’t want to be involved with that?!