“Things happen for a reason…it’s fate meeting like this,” says Khanh Pham, a hairstylist at Sugar A Hair Boutique in Sacramento. It was seemingly pure chance that Amanda Nelson, Executive Director of Albie Aware, went to Khanh Pham for a haircut.
However, he’s not so sure it was by chance at all.
A meeting meant to be?
“I’m not sure how Amanda found me,” says Khanh. “It’s almost fate or serendipity. I was cutting her hair and mentioned that I help people who have cancer with haircuts and shampoos.” She was surprised and appeared fascinated by the news.
“I have been cutting hair for women undergoing chemotherapy for about 12 years,” he says. Up until meeting Amanda, Khanh had never advertised that he provided services to cancer patients free of charge. He sometimes shares his experiences and services with his clients as they converse. Often, he informs them that if they know anyone undergoing chemo that may be interested in getting a cut or shampoo, he is more than happy to help…just send them his way!
After connecting with Amanda, Khanh now offers his service free of charge, which normally cost $60, by referral from Albie Aware. Khanh has learned that women with cancer are not sure if they can go to a hairdresser. They often try to cut their hair by themselves. It is a difficult time for them; they tell him how hard it is when clumps of hair fall out in the shower. When they are ready, Khanh helps shave their head. Khanh asks that if they have any specific requests, they inform him beforehand. It’s imperative to Khanh that the clients feel comfortable and have full trust in him.
“I was first inspired to do this because of a married couple who are my friends,” Khanh explains. “The wife had cancer. I was honored to be able to help, even in the smallest act of cutting and shampooing her hair. It was a process. I helped wash and cut her hair once a week until she was bald. This made me feel good as a person – grateful that I could help. As I washed her hair, clumps of hair would come off. I continued to cut her hair, each time shorter and shorter until it was time to shave her head.”
Journeys – external and internal
Khanh is 37 and loves to travel. Khanh says, “People often put this off, but I enjoy seeing as much of America as possible.” He has also traveled to Japan, Greece, and Italy over the last two years.
Born in San Francisco, his family moved to Sacramento when he was 7 years old. Now he lives with his parents, who were originally from Vietnam, in Elk Grove.
Khanh was raised as a Buddhist. “A very
calming way to live,” he says. “My parents taught me to give back. It’s good Karma. You give and you get back. Maybe not monetarily, but you get back what you give.”
A passion without strings
“I genuinely enjoy what I do and the people I meet,” he says. “I love helping others. I love making people happy and helping them feel good about the way they look when I give them a cut and color. It fills me with joy to see their expression at the end of service. It helps translate into so many other aspects of their lives. It helps them build confidence.”
Khanh adds, “It doesn’t take me a lot of time or energy. It is simple to me and has a lot of meaning to me. It brings me joy and fulfillment to be able to use my talent to help others. Even after a client is cancer-free, if they decide to go back to their original hairdresser, it doesn’t bother me. It’s just my way of giving back. It comes from the heart. It was never an act or strategy to gain new clients.”
Khanh says, “I believe I am very understanding and easy to talk to. My clients should never be intimidated about asking me anything. I want them to feel empowered to discuss their concerns with me.” He feels that building a strong foundation of trust is the most important part of his career.
Life on hold for now
Because of the Coronavirus, the shop where Khanh works is currently closed. He expressed, “I’m hoping it will open soon. Even if I am unable to work there after COVID-19 dies down. There’s just so much uncertainty. Wherever I go, I plan to continue to offer this service to cancer patients. It’s my way of giving back to the community.”