Compassion in Action * Behind-the-scenes

Giving the homeless their dignity no matter who they are

Giving the homeless their dignity no matter who they are


I first met Nur Azmina Burhan or as her friends know her, Che Na, in November 2012, at a feeding program hosted by Pertiwi. Allie who is the designer of my book told me about how Che Na cut the hair of the homeless and that she was someone whose efforts should be recognised.

When I arrived at the first feeding location for the homeless at Kota Raya in Jalan Silang, I witnessed how efficient the Pertiwi Soup Kitchen team were. Munirah Hamid and her team were setup and ready to distribute food within 30 minutes. Indeed, these organizations are critical because without them, the plight of the homeless would be even more taxing.

As I walked around, I noticed Che Na setting up her station in an open area just opposite McDonalds. The first thing to go on the ground were the large garbage bags laid out to catch any falling hair. A stool would follow and that was pretty much it.

There were quite a number of people waiting for their haircut. I cannot say if everyone was homeless but it was pretty obvious Nur would not be turning anyone away. There were young kids, mothers, aunties and uncles waiting for Che Na’s deft hand. Working by her side was another hairdresser. The mood was celebratory somewhat as Che Na greeted all of her customers with a big smile. A very serious looking auntie had some specific instructions on how she wanted her hair cut. A younger man chatted with Che Na all night as she worked with different people.

The second location of the night was a quiet courtyard surrounded by buildings that were already closed for business for the day. Che Na setup her chair on some garbage bags and worked on cutting the hair of a few homeless people who probably did not want to be seen in an open area. One of the gentleman who had his hair cut had a bypass operation recently and the mood was quiet. I could see how much he appreciated having his hair cut with one of the volunteer’s smartphone providing some light for Che Na to work with.

Initially, I just looked upon what Che Na does as merely a hair cut albeit by someone with a real passion for people. However, I soon began to realise that what Nur does is more than that. She gives people back their dignity with her beautiful hair cuts and that is something that I truly respect her for.


At the Born In Malaysia Unity exhibition at Publika in 2014, Che Na was invited to speak during the launch. Admittedly, I made her cry when I mentioned to the assembled guests about how she gave dignity back to the homeless.

Che Na is part of a group of 6 who call themselves POP-UP CREW who roam Kuala Lumpur cutting the hair of the homeless. These are young people with huge hearts. They have a page on Facebook. She also runs a salon in Damansara Heights by day.


Compassion in Action (web) -85988

This is Che Na’s page from our book, Born In Malaysia

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