Caroline MacGillivray is an intelligent businesswoman. She is eloquent. She is captivating in her eloquence, in fact. Charming and beautiful, she has had a career as a writer, playwright, dancer and actor. Presently, she is a yoga instructor and an entrepreneur in that field. Full of passion, vision and ideas, she possesses a powerful, natural skill at connecting with others. With all of these talents and achievements, the most commendable thing about her, I think, is her empathy. In fact, she is one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met.
Caroline is the founder of Beauty Night Society. Beauty Night Society, is an innovative charitable organization that seeks to add value to the lives of those living on the downtown eastside of Vancouver by bringing them the experiences of healing touch, dignified interactions with other people, and adding pleasantness to their daily lives. How does Beauty Night do this? By bringing mobile spa services, provided by caring volunteers, to the homes of these individuals, providing massages, manicures, pedicures, haircuts and makeovers.
Since she was a little girl, Caroline had always had a desire to help the people she now serves. Several years ago, Caroline was asked by a friend, involved with Crossfire Ministries, to portray a young sex worker in a stage production. Caroline agreed, and being a serious actress, began to research her role by going to the downtown eastside. She also began to volunteer with organizations that served this population and her practical education on this neighbourhood and its inhabitants began.
One night, a woman who had just suffered a sexual trauma, came into the building where Caroline was volunteering. This dear woman kept saying that she wanted “to feel clean”. Caroline helped her to a shower and some clean clothes. As the woman calmed down, she saw a curling iron that had been brought along by a volunteer that day. The woman asked if she could use it. To her disappointment, when she tried, she could not raise her arm above her head to curl her own hair because of the trauma she had suffered. She began to cry. Caroline offered to curl her hair.
This interaction, brought some positive, instead of negative, interaction to this woman; some love, some mercy. It gave her a break from her very difficult life and routine. Caroline was moved at the humanness of this experience and how it created an occasion for this woman to be treated as an equal. It also brought her temporary joy; joy in a very dark life. Caroline pondered and remembered these realizations.
When Caroline had begun volunteering, and researching her role as a sex worker, she noted prevailing attitudes about women working as prostitutes. They were hated and regarded as sub-human, drug addicted, nymphomaniacs, who chose and liked their lives. What Caroline learned on the streets and in the SRO’s of the downtown eastside was very different. These women and men almost always came from extremely abusive, childhood homes. The average age of entry into the sex trade was 12. These people were trapped, with almost no options, and very low self esteem. Furthermore, they were rejected by the opinions of fellow human beings, who had no idea of the struggles and abuses they had been forced to endure since childhood.
Her time and observations on the downtown eastside, and the experience of that unforgettable woman, gave birth to a vision of what would become Beauty Night Society, founded 15 years ago by Caroline. Fifty thousand makeovers later, Beauty Night operates with the beliefs that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of socio-economic status, and that no one deserves to be invisible and isolated from community. Beauty Night aims at building self esteem and changing lives of women, men and youth living in poverty through 3 streams of programming: wellness, life skills development and makeovers. With average life expectancy of those living on the downtown eastside being between 40 and 49 years old, this is a much needed initiative.
If you would like to volunteer your time, money or products, or to find out more about Beauty Night Society, please visit: beautynight.org