Interview with Leigh Boyle


By Aryan Etesami

Photos courtesy of Leigh Boyle  

Sometimes all that’s needed to make you happy is a nicely done manicure! And the best person to attest to this statement is no one but an ambitious woman named Leigh Boyle. Leigh is 26 years old and although born and raised in North Vancouver, has finished all of her school years up to the 12th grade at Crofton House School here in the Kerrisdale neighbourhood. She holds her Bachelor of Arts in Communications degree from Trinity Western University and is currently working as a fundraiser at Union Gospel Mission on the downtown eastside.

What sets Leigh apart from a typical, working university-graduate however is that she is the founder of a successful non-profit, volunteer-based society called the Lip Stick Project.

After graduating from university, Leigh travelled to Swaziland, South Africa for an internship and later to Ethiopia to work as a communications officer. Soon after however, she started to feel very lonely working a routine job and being unable to effectively communicate due to the language barrier. As a coping strategy, Leigh started volunteering with a local women’s hospital, where she encountered many women living with a painful condition common in some developing countries, called Obstetric Fistula. Limited by communication difficulties, she surprisingly came to realize the best way to bring some happiness into the lives of these women may be nothing else but a good old manicure!

599322_654193997979319_1740419077_nWhen she later returned home from Africa, Leigh was encouraged by friends and family to re-establish the same practice within our healthcare system here in Vancouver; and that marks how the Lip Stick Project finally came to life. Today, men, women and children facing challenging health-related situations at local hospices and hospitals, have been receiving professional grade spa and aesthetic services such as manicures, massages and makeups at no cost, thanks to the Lip Stick Project!

I believe it is beyond imaginable what great impact such act of kindness can have on a patient lying ill on a hospice or hospital bed. And it is for this reason that I decided to have a talk with the woman behind this wonderful idea!


–        Q: When did your organization officially start its service and how has it changed or grown over time?

A: We started on April 01, 2013. When we started, we were only serving at the Northshore hospice, and since then we have expanded to the Ronald Macdonald House of BC and Canuck Place Children’s hospice and have a few more locations in the pipeline.


–        Q: What has been the most enjoyable part about providing free spa services to the ill?

A: There is two sides to this; one is the experience that our clients have and the other is the experience that the volunteers have. On the clients’ side, I think it is so enjoyable for us to see someone’s day brighten just a little bit by what we can do; if it’s a simple haircut or doing their nails, just helping them feel a little bit like themselves. All of these people are going through trauma where talking care of themselves like that is basically a last priority, so to be able to help them with that is really special. And on the flip side for volunteers, in the aesthetic and spa industry in Vancouver, there are not a lot of opportunities for people to use the skills that they have to support their community, so this is a really fun way for them to use their passion and talent.


1525061_629112557154130_1695991256_n–        Q: Do you have any remarkable memories from your time with the society?

A: We were called once to the Ronald Macdonald house for a young woman who had recently been diagnosed with cancer and she had quite long hair. She was a teenager and so to her what she looks like is very important and a part of her identity, so the prospect of her hair falling out chunk by chunk as she went through chemotherapy was really hard as it would be with anyone. They called us and asked us if we could send someone over as soon as possible to help her shave her head so that it could be done properly. And so we sent one of our girls over, and they ended up doing a really awesome pixy cut for her instead of shaving it. We even did a haircut for her sister and her mom at the same time and we were able to make it more of a positive experience than something that would have been very traumatic and difficult.


–        Q: How many volunteers are there serving for your organization right now? Are you accepting new volunteers?

A: We are always accepting new volunteers. Right now, we have about 40-50 volunteers; and since the whole society is volunteer-run, that may include the girls providing the services or those managing the finances and the logistics of things.


–        Q: Where do you see the Lip Stick Project in three to five years? And what are your organization’s ultimate goals?

A: In three to five years, I’d like to see us be much more integrated into the healthcare system in Vancouver; I’d also like to see us have an affiliate in another city, probably in Calgary. Our ultimate goal is to be a part of a holistic healthcare model in Vancouver, across this province and as far as we can reach.


–        Q: Running the organization, what do you personally spend most of your time on?

A: It is probably enrolling new volunteers and engaging new people into what we do. Lots of people want to hear the story and lots of people want to get involved so my job largely is to help people do that. The volunteers that provide the services to our clients are all professionals in the spa industry, and I am not qualified in that area.


–        Q: You run a nonprofit organization, where do you obtain the funding necessary to provide your services? How can people donate to the Lip Stick Project?

A: We currently operate with the help of donations from Private and corporate donors. Anyone interested in donating to our society, can visit our website at and follow the directions provided.


–        Q: Lastly, I know that your grandparents have been regulars here in Kerrisdale Community Centre for a long time, have you had any involvements with the KCC so far? If not, do you have any plans?

A: I haven’t had any involvement with the Community Centre yet. If the opportunity presents itself, we would obviously love to be involved with the Centre. Our mandate is very much to work with people who are in very challenging health situations; there is a lot of populations that we would love to serve but because that scope could be so wide, we decided to focus our mission to those most in need.