This Cape Town barber dreams of giving free haircuts from a mobile salon, but he needs help

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Warren Theunis giving free haircuts from his sponsored Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in 2019
Warren Theunis giving free haircuts from his sponsored Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in 2019
Warren Theunis

Warren Theunis has been a barber for more than 20 years with a love for social outreaches.

• The Cape Town-based barber has a dream of acquiring a mobile salon and servicing the less fortunate.

• Theunis started 'Groomed for Change' in 2018 after noticing a need in his community.

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Having been a barber for more than two decades, Warren Theunis knows people like the back of his hand. Living out his trade, he has seen all sides of people's personalities - both the good and the bad. And more, he saw the challenges many face to get something we take for granted: a haircut.

Cape Town-born Theunis, during one of his cuts, realised that the senior citizens in his area are often confronted with the challenge of scraping a few Rands together to pay for a grooming session. It troubled him a great deal and forced him into action to offer his services to them at no cost. As Theunis puts it: "No advertising, no public announcements of the work I'm doing. Just grooming the seniors and saying thank you."

This happened in 2018, and word quickly spread of the free service offered to senior citizens on the last Wednesday of the month. It was the spark that ignited 'Groomed for Change' - a free grooming service for those who can't afford it. Theunis says this concept survives on donations received from those who can make it.

A journey worth taking

In 2018, one year after launching 'Groomed for Change', Theunis began a journey that would take him across South Africa. From providing his services throughout the Western Cape, to the Eastern Cape and the North-Western provinces, 'Groomed for Change' has gone over and above for those in need. And the essence of the service remained intact throughout: provide grooming services for those who can't afford it.

2018 was also the year that Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles in Montague Gardens gave him a call and said that they'd sponsor him with a 311 Sprinter. It happened late in May, and Theunis converted the bus into a mobile barbershop for the 16 days he'd have it leading up to Youth Day. Theunis provided his free service to those in embattled communities in Cape Town, Elim, Villiersdorp, and Caledon for the first two weeks of June that year.

"When I look back, I know how impossible it would've been if Mercedes-Benz never came alongside me to assist," Theunis said, reflecting on that 2019 journey. "In fact, it would've been a logistical nightmare to have carted the barbershop around without the Sprinter."

In 2020, Covid-19 hit the world, and the subsequent lockdown halted any progress 'Groomed for Change' had made up until that point. Despite the challenges, Theunis continues to offer his free grooming service to senior citizens, waiting for the day he can take to the road again and offer his service to those who need it most.

Before the lockdown was imposed, Theunis took to the road in a Mercedes-Benz Vito and a hired Toyota Quantum with others who had the same intent as him. He says: "I wasn't lead on this cross-country project, just a volunteer. But I applied the same mindset I used in the 2019 "16 Days for youth" campaign. It doesn't matter if it's my project or if I'm collaborating with like-minded, kind, selfless individuals. If the outreach aligns with my morals, then I'm committed."

Back on the road

Having been limited by Covid-19, Theunis admits that he misses hitting the road and providing his free-of-charge service to those challenged by the economy. As such, he started a 'Back a Buddy' campaign where he aims to raise R350 000 to buy a bus and convert it into a mobile barbershop. Theunis has gone so far as to put his beloved Suzuki GSX R 1000 K7 up as a prize to motivate the public to donate. Anyone who donates at least R200 will contend for this giveaway prize through a lucky draw once the target amount has been reached.

About giving his bike away, Theunis says: "I can't expect people to give if I don't give."

The barber's mantra has been giving and sharing what he has without asking for anything in return. News about his service has spread throughout South Africa, all through word of mouth, giving rise to various media outlets contacting him to share his story.

And what about when he has his converted bus? There's no doubt about what Theunis wants to do: "Once I have progressed from hiring spaces to a fully functional mobile salon, I intend to do three social activations per week. I know this seems like a heck of a task, but remember, I've been cutting hair for 21 years. I view the previous projects as practice runs for what's about to come. Full-time as a barber providing free services to the seniors of this province… That's the dream."

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