Today we’d like to introduce you to Temica Wofford.
Temica, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Loving Me: Empowering Girls to Love Themselves Unconditionally, is a nonprofit organization founded in 2016, on a mission to uplift the self-esteem of girls in the foster care system through hair care. While working with foster youth for over 15 years in various roles (case manager, counselor, wraparound facilitator, social worker) in Atlanta, Chicago and now Los Angeles I noticed that the hair care needs of youth were being neglected.
The foster youth that I served particularly those of color living in group homes, residential treatment centers and juvenile probation facilities rarely had access to professional hair care services, were subjected to a one size fits all approach for hair care products, and education on how to care for and maintain their hair was seldom if it all provided. I witnessed youth with severely damaged hair as a result of over-processing from chemicals/hair color, excessive heat styling, scalp infections, hair loss due to wearing too tight braids or wigs/weaves inappropriately installed often a result of having to rely on peers and the internet for hairstyling all while trying to feel beautiful.
I began to observe the detrimental effects that having poorly maintained and damaged hair had on the youth I served self-esteem, school attendance, behavior, social interaction and sadly making some an easy target for recruitment into sex trafficking. I had clients running away on the promise that they could get their hair and nails done, not knowing they were being lured into the world of sex trafficking.
In 2015, I launched Loving Me: Empowering Girls to Love Themselves Unconditionally on the mission to provide advocacy and resources to help girls gain access to professional hair care services and culturally appropriate products. I launched a behavior modification program at a Los Angeles based residential facility for girls to earn the opportunity for a hair care makeover. I partnered with Black Velvet Hair Company in DTLA to provide free hair care consultation/education and makeovers for the residents and I received hair product donations from Troy Zestos owner of the CHROMA SALON in West Hollywood.
IN 2016, while working in an adolescent residential facility the number one request of my female clients was hair care products. The girls would ask staff to purchase hair products (shampoo/conditioner/gel/oil/braiding hair) or even be forced to use their allowance to get the appropriate products. By 2018, I had enough and I launched the Love Box- a haircare box with hair care instruction sheet, shampoo, conditioner, daily oil moisturizer, gel, curl cream, jojoba oil, a bonnet/scarf, and hair ties. I currently work at Children’s Law Center of California as a case manager for foster youth on juvenile probation, which gives me access to every foster child in LA County, I approached my law firm director to request data on the amount of foster youth in placements and when she inquired about what I needed data for I told her I wanted to raise money to donate Love Boxes to our clients.
On the spot, she agreed to purchase the first 100 Love Boxes and gave me a generous budget to create them using quality products. This gave me the push to launch a crowdfunding website and use my social media to raise awareness and monetary donations, I reached out to hair companies for donations but never received responses. I didn’t let that deter me and through personal funds and financial contributions from donors I was able to donate an additional 200 Love Boxes to girls in foster care and juvenile probation systems residing at facilities all over LA County.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
My greatest challenge has been convincing the foster care and juvenile probation systems and placement providers that proper hair care is a right not a privilege and not something to be used as a punishment or consequence. Ultimately it is my desire for them to realize that damaged hair leads to damaged self-esteem.
Getting them to understand the importance of girls loving what they see when they look in the mirror, not for vanity but for their sanity and safety When a girls hair and appearance is neglected and they are already at risk for trafficking if they are observed in the community to be unkept then traffickers know that they are unloved and not being looked after properly and it is easy for them to swoop in with the promise of hair care and then girls get trapped in the life all because placement providers refused to provide access to a basic needs
We’d love to hear more about your organization.
Loving Me specializes in providing foster youth with access to culturally diverse products and professional hair care services. Our goal for 2020 is to connect with more hairstylist and partner them with STRTP/Group homes and probation facilities to give youth the opportunity to access routine professional hair care services. If you’re a hair stylist or barber interested in partnering please contact Temica Wofford.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Been more bold in my pursuit of forming partnerships with beauty salons and hair care companies. Follow up follow up follow up.
- $30 to donate a Love Box
- Address: 3818 crenshaw Blvd Suite 200 LA CA 90008
- Website: https://secure.democracyengine.com/LovingMe
- Phone: (323) 251-6473
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @lovingmeunconditionally