Kayel Truong believes wholeheartedly in giving whatever is in his hands to help the disadvantaged. He lives this out by spending hours every weekend cutting hair for the homeless in downtown Calgary and is a passionate life coach. Simply seeing Kayel’s immense compassion and dedication to serving the less fortunate and helping others, you would never have guessed he was once a prisoner with no hope.
When Kayel was a child, his family fled the Vietnam war by boat before resettling in Canada in 1980. They lived in a refugee camp for two years where they experienced many hardships. Growing up as a minority in a small Canadian town was challenging. Kayel was placed into special needs classes and raised with the assumption of being mentally disabled after contracting an airborne illness that momentarily took his life, prior to his family escaping Vietnam. He received a lot of bullying, abuse, discrimination and poverty. At the age of 14, he witnessed the tragedy of his father’s passing from a car accident and adopted the role of primary caregiver as the only “man of the house”. What ultimately led Kayel down a path of destruction was when he found out he would be a young father. His desire to provide and make a good life for his expectant girlfriend and unborn child, along with toxic influences surrounding their relationship, drove Kayel to drug dealing and violence. This all went against his traditional upbringing and family values, but he believed there was no better choice for him. He was cast out of his family, and eventually, this path led him to prison.
In prison, Kayel decided to take initiative to seek out support through self-help books, multiple prison-led rehabilitation programs and the prison chaplaincy ministry, in order to work through the mental, emotional, and spiritual traumas that led him there. Several months prior to finishing his prison term, he was introduced to Peter Worsley, the Reintegration Chaplain for Bridge Ministries. Bridge Ministries is an MCC Alberta reintegration ministry that supports offenders as they transition from prison back into community living by building bridges of hope and support.
How the ministry works:
Peter begins working with offenders prior to release. Upon release, faith communities and volunteers work together with Peter to provide ex-offenders with practical spiritual, social, and emotional support to help them rebuild their lives. Referrals to community agencies are given to help participants make connections for housing, employment, clothing, etc. Overall, 95 per cent of participants who have reintegrated with the support of Bridge Ministries do not re-offend.
Kayel shares that finding faith, receiving positive and consistent support from Peter and Bridge Ministries, alongside the unconditional love of his family, all helped him begin his life anew after prison.
“Ultimately, I have God to thank for the fundamental changes in my life and the unconditional love of my family, strong supporters like Peter that loved on me, for me to be able to share with others. I am forever grateful.”
He trained as a hairdresser, became a personal fitness trainer, and got involved in church-led community outreach initiatives. On one occasion while volunteering with a church ministry at the Calgary Drop-In Centre, Kayel overheard some of the homeless people discussing job interviews. He was overcome with compassion and concern as many of them did not look properly groomed for a job interview. He felt called to use the skills he was learning to give haircuts to the homeless. The following weekend he went back to do just that.
“It’s been about two years now and well over 3,000 haircuts have been given. My team and I cut ‘til we can't hold the scissors anymore every Saturday morning.” He adds that he and his team also provide haircuts at The Mustard Seed on a weekly basis. This year, when the temperatures dropped below -30 the whole team handed out warm garments, blankets, doughnuts and coffee. “We [also] gave out five- and 10-dollar Tim Hortons coffee cards to help them have excuses to step into somewhere warm in order to use the washrooms without rejection and to have something hot to eat or drink.”
When asked what he would like readers to know, Kayel says, “Everyone falls or stumbles at some point in their lives. Anyone struggling needs love and not ignorance. Everyone deserves kindness. You can never really know what battles they fight within…What I commonly hear from those I cut hair for is, ‘Thank you, I feel like a human again, and thank you guys so much for doing this for us, this gives us dignity.'” He adds, “There are many ways to help the less fortunate. You can donate money or goods to an organization, serve, or even organize volunteers to help. You can also contact me if you would like and I can include you in what I do…you don't have to cut hair if you don't know how.”
Learn more about Bridge Ministries
To support Kayel’s cause, click here.