Mai Mukaida is changing the face of poverty in developing countries. The 29-year-old helps impoverished women in developing countries learn the basics of skin care and makeup.
"Your appearance can change the people around you as well," Mukaida said. "That's true all over the world, not just in developed countries."
Mukaida launched her group three years ago and has since organized a number of workshops to teach tips for skin care and the basics of makeup in Turkey, Nepal and two other countries. So far, more than 500 women have taken lessons, and in the spring last year, cosmetics company Shu Uemura began donating its products to support her cause.
Mukaida began her volunteer work along more typical lines. As a second-year high school student, she attended a lecture by an NGO representative who worked in Nepal. Shocked by a photo of a starving child gnawing a stone, she decided to go to the country to try to help.
Once there, however, she saw only people who seemed happy. Not knowing how to help and overwhelmed by a sense of frustration, Mukaida became less involved with such volunteer work during her time at university.
But when she learned about a woman her own age who was helping poor people in developing countries in her own way, Mukaida decided to give volunteer work another try, this time on her own terms.
She visited Turkey in the summer of her senior year. In the Muslim nation, Mukaida asked a poverty-stricken woman what she would like to do if she could have one wish granted.
Surprisingly, the woman said she would like to wear makeup. Those unexpected words set Mukaida on her current path.
Mukaida has recently been working on teaching cosmetic skills to Nepalese women who were rescued from brothels. She hopes those women will find employment in the growing number of beauty salons in the capital, Katmandu.
"I want to work for the happiness of the people in front of me, rather than for some abstract idea of fairness or justice," Mukaida said.
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