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Wellington couple ditch fulltime jobs to spread kindness

Jem Jeffs with partner, Paul Saker-Norrish

Spreading kindness through cutting hair for free and introducing others to yoga using live music has become a passion for a Wellington couple.

Jem Jeffs and partner, Paul Saker-Norrish, have given up their fulltime jobs as a hairdresser and lawyer to devote themselves to making the community a better place.

Every Thursday Jem gives free haircuts for the Compassion Soup Kitchen whanau in central Wellington. She also occasionally gives free haircuts at DCM (Downtown Community Ministry) .

Jem says she’s received more than she’s given her clients who’ve taught her the importance of gratitude.

“They never have a poor me attitude, she says.

“They’ve implanted that [gratitude] into my life” .

Recently, a person who received a free haircut and enjoyed a music session told her “With everything we put up with on the streets, you have no idea what these couple of hours mean to us.”

Giving it back

Raised in England, Jem came to New Zealand at 18.

New Zealand has been good to me. This is my way of giving it back.”

She’s been a hairdresser in Aro Valley, Wellington, for 14 years.

Jem says the clients whose hair she cuts for free appreciate the touching involved, conversation and the time she gives them.

“Touch is huge. My heart is rewarded by service to others.”

Jem is trying to condense her weekly paid clientele at Aro Hair Studio in Aro Street into one very long working day each week.

She has also been cutting hair at Arohata Women’s Prison in Wellington.

Jem Jeffs says the clients whose hair she cuts for free appreciate touch, conversation and the time she gives them

She believes if people can change how they feel about themselves then they will treat others better.

Spreading kindness

“Kindness is the biggest thing we are trying to spread.”

Jem and Paul also run Yoga Rhapsody where they combine yoga with live music.

They run paid public classes where people can pay it forward so others can attend for free.

Those groups include vulnerable youth and people with intellectual disabilities.

“I was the last person who thought I should go to yoga,” Jem says.

She said she found it so healing as it helped her out of the depressed state she was in.

It helped her learn to show kindness to herself.

More powerful than they expected

Jem says she and Paul have found their yoga and music sessions “a lot more powerful than we thought.”

She says the key is for a person to withdraw from what’s around and to focus on what is inside of them.

“Music helps participants feel emotions.

“We suppress so much emotion to survive.

“In prison a lot of people there can’t rely on anyone,” she says.

Working alongside Jem and Paul’s public classes is Katie Benge, a yoga teacher and musician.

The trio is also starting public classes for people in the early stages of dementia.

Jem and Paul run Yoga Rhapsody where they combine yoga with live music

Taking away barriers

“We are trying to take away the barriers [for them to attend].”

Jem says they find participants benefit by the relaxation and movement, and belonging to something.

Another arm of the couple’s community involvement is Jem becoming a celebrant for marriages and other family events. She is also using it as an opportunity for people to pay it forward to give opportunities to others.

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