Jester barber cuts poor Saigonese some slack

By Quynh Tran   October 21, 2020 | 09:29 pm GMT+7
Donning his zany, colorful clown costume, barber Nguyen Van Phap cycles into the night after work, looking to spruce up Saigon's poor and destitute.
Jester barber cuts poor Saigonese some slack

For the past half year, four days a week, 24-year-old barber Nguyen Van Phap from Tan Binh District has donned his clown costume after finishing work at 8 p.m. to provide poverty-stricken Saigonese free haircuts.

"With little else to give, I provide the poor and homeless with free haircuts to help relieve their burden," Phap said.

Jester barber cuts poor Saigonese some slack

The clown costume was given to him by a coworker who had learned about his good deeds. "The image of a clown brings joy and comfort to people," Phap maintained.

Having dropped out of middle school, the young man moved to Saigon from central Thua Thien-Hue Province years ago, waiting tables and selling fruit. He has worked as a barber for the past decade.

Jester barber cuts poor Saigonese some slack

Phap's self made wooden tool kit weighs around eight kg. It includes mirrors, small cabinets, razor blades, combs, and numerous other tools of the trade.

Jester barber cuts poor Saigonese some slack

Phap often swings by a bakery near his workplace to buy cakes and drinks for his destitute clients, spending around VND1 million ($43) a month.

Jester barber cuts poor Saigonese some slack

On Friday night last week, Phap met Pham Duy Hung and his mother in Binh Thanh District, who work as scrap collectors.

"I normally introduce myself as a barber willing to provide free haircuts. Most people say no at first, but give in after some friendly conversation," he said.

Jester barber cuts poor Saigonese some slack

Phap cuts Hung's hair right on the sidewalk as vehicles whizz by on the street.

Jester barber cuts poor Saigonese some slack

Hung keeps a reflective eye on his scissor-wielding benefactor.

"I told him to make it short so I could cool down more easily and sweat less. Normally, I only have my hair cut every two months, each time costing me VND40,000, which is no small fee," the satisfied customer said.

Jester barber cuts poor Saigonese some slack

At around 10 p.m., Phap meets 60-year-old Tran Hoang Dung at an intersection in Binh Thanh and offers him a haircut.

Dung, who has been paralyzed since youth, has survived by selling lottery tickets and sleeping rough for decades.

Jester barber cuts poor Saigonese some slack

"I ask each customer which style they would like, trying my best to meet their requests," Phap said.

Jester barber cuts poor Saigonese some slack

Phap hands Dung some cakes and water.

"I don't even have enough money for food, so I only cut my hair when I visit to my hometown in southern Dong Nai Province. I was a bit reserved at first, but he seemed so enthusiastic that I happily let him cut my hair," Dung said.

Jester barber cuts poor Saigonese some slack

Phap cycles around 20 km each night before finishing up at around 11 p.m. He plans to buy a Super Cub 50 motorbike to aid his nocturnal efforts.

"Hairdressing as a job only allows me to live within my means. While not much, it enables me to help others, which makes life more meaningful," he said, before disappearing into the night.

 
 
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