Natasha Thom, centre, with Lipstick Project volunteers. Photos: Meghan Hemstra Photography

In June this year, Natasha Thom received an urgent call from the BC Children’s Hospital.

Natasha and her volunteers—a group of stylists and makeup artists, were told that a grade 12 girl had been admitted to the intensive care unit.

The young girl was determined to make it to her graduation prom, despite her health being in steep decline.

Natasha and her team did their best to make the young woman’s day. They did the teen’s hair, nails and makeup, helping her look great and getting her ready for the big night.

Although the girl wasn’t physically able to speak, that afternoon was one of the most powerful moments Natasha had experienced since she began working with the non-profit organization.

“You could tell from the light in her eyes how grateful she was,” says Natasha, now the Director of Operations for The Lipstick Project, a volunteer-run organization that provides free, professional spa services for people with significant health challenges.

“We bring out that daily sparkle, and we find that beautiful moment in each day.”

The girl ended up going to her prom, medical team in tow. The hospital even surprised her with a limousine.

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“It’s in situations like this where we are a smaller piece of the larger medical care puzzle,” says Natasha. “We’re so honoured to do what we do.”

The Lipstick Project partners with organizations like Ronald McDonald House of BC, Canuck Place Children’s Hospice and the North Shore Hospice Society.

The group’s volunteers regularly visit clients to bring a relaxing experience through manicures, pedicures, hair services and massage.

A personal connection

Natasha Thom became involved with The Lipstick Project two years ago, during a time when she was looking for a new—and different—challenge in her life. Natasha met the organization’s founder, Leigh Boyle, at that time.

“I took a course with her [Boyle] two years ago—she really put the bug in my ear,” says Natasha. “I was in a rut, yet eagerly awaiting to see what my next project would be.”

This, while going through the biggest challenge yet: a fight for her life. Natasha was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 18.

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“When I was in hospital, I went through a lot of depression, sadness and confusion around my diagnosis,” Natasha now says.

Having now beaten the disease, Natasha says that her diagnosis at age 18 re-shaped the course of her life. She now has a better understanding of the importance of hope and dignity for those fighting serious illnesses.

A big part of her work with the The Lipstick Project relies on physical touch and proximity. “I think the beauty of what we do is that human connection,” says Natasha.

“We strive for a sense of normalcy and sense of comfort. We realize how important that is, from testimonials from our clients.”

Developing skills and leadership

Natasha says she has worked for various charities and non-profits for almost ten years.

She is currently a student in the Global Stewardship program at Capilano University, where she is developing both the technical and leadership skills needed to work in the non-profit sector.

“You get really hands-on, experiential learning,” says Natasha. “The students in our program are so engaged and diverse—it’s a really cool place to bounce ideas.”

Dr. Joe Kelly, a member of the Faculty of Global and Community Studies at Capilano, says it takes a combination of practical skills and personal conviction to work in the non-profit sector.

“I’m a big believer in cultivating the three kinds of domains of learning—the head, the heart, the hands,” he says.

“The head being the book smarts we learn in school, the domain of the hands—which is tangible skills, and the heart, being more of an attitude. In my mind, it’s important to cultivate all three of those.”

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Natasha says the program has helped develop her leadership abilities, focusing specifically on personal qualities she can use in her role as the Director of Operations for the Lipstick Project.

As the organization’s first paid staff member, she is in charge of working with community partners, training new volunteers and handling social media.

But for Natasha, the job goes way beyond the administrative tasks.

“It’s much more personal for me,” she says.

“Having been through my own journey of cancer, I remember being poked and prodded numerous times a day for medical intervention. The services that we provide at The Lipstick Project are ones I wish I was able to take advantage of. The opportunity to be a listening ear, offer a sense of healing touch and connection—even just for a few minutes—is such an honour.”

Submitted by Marketing & Communications, written by GP Mendoza

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Learn more about The Lipstick Project here.

Helping students reach their fullest potential as agents of change and as lifelong, active, global citizens is a fundamental goal at Capilano U. That’s why Capilano University is proud to be the exclusive post-secondary education partner of We Day Vancouver. This partnership is one example of the university’s commitment to educating, engaging and empowering students. The energy and great work of We Day doesn’t have to end at high school graduation. The culture of changemaking is fostered and built into many Capilano programs and initiatives.

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