EIGHTEEN young people in Cambodia have been helped from a life of poverty, thanks in part to the efforts of Hayscastle hairdresser, Michelle Summers.

Michelle, who owns Michelle Davies Hair in Goodwick Main Street, was the only hairdresser from the UK to take part in Hair Aid's Cambodia project last month.

She was a part of a team of educators who went into some of the country's poorest areas to teach hairdressing skills to teenagers and young adults, many of whom had escaped extreme poverty, hardship and destitution.

Michelle started her Cambodia experience with an induction introducing her to the culture of the country and the extreme poverty suffered by many of its population.

During this time she was involved teaching some of Hair Aid's previous graduates new skills, as well as delivering free haircuts to children in schools and those rescued from the sex trade.

"That was an experience in itself," said Michelle. "I loved it. I was doing what I do best. It was great."

Michelle spent the rest of her time at the Friends International project in Phnom Penh which offers a full protection and social reintegration programme for vulnerable children and young people including non-formal education and vocational training.

She was part of a team training 28 young people, aged 16-20, to become hairdressers, teaching them five different haircuts in five days.

Michelle is an award-winning educator with Matrix and says the Cambodia experience taught her a lot.

"As an educator the experience gave me a lot of knowledge," she said. "Because of the language barrier you had to teach through play and it gave me an insight into how to teach large groups."

The week ended with a "very emotional" graduation ceremony, made more so when three of the trainees got up to sing.

Eighteen of Michelle's students graduated, including two Super Stars who were proficient enough to start on the salon floor immediately.

All of the 28 young people received a Hair Aid hairdressing kit, bought with donations raised by the course educators.

"By doing two haircuts a day the students can double their monthly income," said Michelle. "This is the difference it makes to them to learn a skill like hairdressing."

Michelle described her experience as an "emotional rollercoaster".

"There were lots of ups and downs," she said. "But watching the students graduate was a major high point. That was what I went out there for.

"They were lovely people, friendly, welcoming, delighted to have you there. Really kind and really nice. I learnt a lot from them, as much as they learnt from me."

Despite working long days in extreme heat Michelle says she would love to repeat the experience.

"I would definitely do it again," she said. In fact I'm looking at going to the Philippines with Hair Aid in January next year.