From one veteran to another: West Lothian hairdresser volunteers her time to Scottish War Blinded

Posted: 03/05/2018 | Scottish War Blinded

Having previously served in the Army Reserves for over four years and an avid fundraiser for local charities, West Lothian hairdresser Gemma Nicol is no stranger to the Armed Forces or charitable giving.

Now, Gemma has turned her life-long trade in hairdressing to provide free haircuts to veterans with sight loss at the Linburn Centre for Scottish War Blinded. Gemma’s motivation for this new voluntary experience came after Scottish War Blinded veteran, Paul visited her salon for a haircut.

“When Paul initially came into the salon I had no idea he had sight loss until he told me but I could tell that coming in, for him, was a bit of a struggle. The loud music also didn’t help his experience either.”

After this encounter with Paul, Gemma recalled a time from over five years ago when she provided a haircut for a client working for Scottish War Blinded, who had mentioned that the Linburn Centre had a salon facility available. With this memory in mind, Gemma reached out to the centre to offer her services.

Having only been set up for six weeks, Gemma has already given 30 free haircuts to members at the Linburn Centre with the hopes to provide more on alternative days so that as many veterans can benefit as possible. Although recognising the benefits Scottish War Blinded veterans receive from her voluntary work, Gemma was keen to express that there was just as much value in it for her too, saying:

“As much as I think the veterans here are enjoying having their haircut, volunteering here is extremely rewarding for me!

“The hairdressing part is great but the one to one experience and befriending aspect of it puts the cherry on top of the cake. Everyone has a story at Linburn and I think because of my Military background it instantly creates a connection between me and the veterans here.”

Scottish War Blinded veteran Paul suffers from PTSD and has since been getting his haircut by Gemma at Linburn:

“Loud music can often trigger my PTSD meaning that being in a high street salon is really quite stressful for me. Having Gemma come here, cutting my hair in a private salon makes such a difference to me. It’s great to have a chat with her too, she’s really friendly.”

Another Scottish War Blinded veteran, John who is a wheelchair user gave his sincere thanks to Gemma for giving up her time to the members saying:

“It’s extremely kind of her to come out and do this. In the past it’s been quite difficult and stressful for me to get into a salon chair, but here it’s perfect. I can just sit in my wheelchair and Gemma takes care if the rest!”

If you're interested in volunteering your time with Scottish War Blinded please contact equiries@royalblind.org or call 0131 229 1456