A team of girls from Women’s Christian College, Chennai conducts a hair donation drive annually to collect hair that can be used to make natural wigs for cancer patients of the globally-renowned Adyar Cancer Institute. Read on to know more about these wonder women!
Seeta (name changed on request), a 19-year old girl from Tanjore, Tamil Nadu, was struck by cancer. She was brought to Chennai for treatment at the Adyar Cancer Institute. After several painful sessions of Chemotherapy, Seeta gradually returned to normalcy. She had already missed two years of college due to the chemotherapy sessions. Adding salt to the wound was the fact that she had gone bald due to the treatment.
Even though her cancer had been cured, she was not confident enough to walk into the outside world and lead a normal life due to her looks. She underwent a long period of trauma as she just could not come to terms with it. She did not want the world to know that she had cancer. One fine day came the solution to her problem – a natural hair wig – that was given to her, free-of-cost, at the Cancer Institute. She is now resuming her education with a lot of self-confidence and leading a dignified life.
Seeta, is just one of the many beneficiaries of Tangled – a hair donation initiative of the Rotaract Club at the Women’s Christian College (WCC), Chennai.
Making natural hair wigs requires people like you and me to come forward and donate some amount of our own hair. Anyone willing to donate their hair could do so by walking into the nearest Green Trends Beauty Salon outlet.
“The salon cuts and collects hair free of cost from the donors. More than 600 stylists are trained to collect a minimum of 10 inches of hair without changing the customer’s look. It takes atleast 6-8 ponytails to make one wig,” says Gopalakrishnan, the Business Head of the salon chain.
Why natural hair wigs?
Synthetic hair wigs that are usually worn are extremely uncomfortable, itchy and expensive. The cost of one such wig is about Rs.25,000 to Rs.30,000 and most patients, after spending lakhs on the treatment, hesitate to spend such a huge amount on a wig. Natural hair wigs, meanwhile, come at price of approximately Rs.17,000.
Raj Hair Intl. Pvt. Ltd., the wig-making partner of Tangled, gives the natural hair wigs to them at a price of Rs. 4,500 per wig. These wigs are then distributed for free to the underprivileged cancer patients of the Cancer Institute. The cost of wig-making is borne by the sponsors whose generous contributions make this possible.
Says Rennee Sara, the brainchild behind the initiative: “The main idea was to do a project in my final year of college that would have a positive impact on the common public. When I started looking out for ideas, I came to know about this initiative called – LOCKS OF LOVE based in USA. They also helped supply free natural hair wigs to cancer patients. I then searched if such organizations existed in India as well. I came to know that very few exist and among those, very few were functioning due to lack of funds. People were unaware of hair wigs here. Moreover, cancer patients are unwilling to disclose that they were infected and end up quitting their jobs. That is when I decided to start this drive”.
Their campaign message reads as follows-
“You’ll be shedding few inches of a dead organ. Fortunately, you are aware that it will grow back. What you are unaware of is the fact that this could boost the self-confidence of another person and can in many ways cure the agony of cancer”.
“It began last year, 2014, on the 4th of February which is marked as World Cancer Day. People were encouraged to donate their hair for a noble cause. Campaigns, social media, newspapers, magazines and private news channels were used as media for publicity. The Cancer Institute also agreed to receive the wigs. The team thought that it would be difficult to convince girls to donate their hair. We even faced criticism; many questions arose such as – “will any girl be willing to donate?”, “will her parents agree?” and many more. But to our pleasant surprise, on Day One of our drive, 160 women came forward to donate their hair! Last year alone, 2549 donors came forward to donate their hair and the net weight of the hair collected was 83 kg during the two-week drive!” says Shashwathi, the Vice President of the club, beaming with joy.
Last year, the drive happened at Chennai, Coimbatore, and some parts of Bangalore while this year it was extended to New Delhi, Hyderabad and Vellore. The drive happened from 4th February to 18th February this year.
How is it done?
The hair that is being cut, is stored in zip lock covers and is given away to the wig making partner. There, it is dried, cleaned using hot water, classified based on the texture, permed and then hand woven into wigs.
As and when the wigs are made, they are given to the people in-charge at the Cancer Institute, who after further testing and a round of counselling give it to the underprivileged cancer patients, who are really in need of them. It takes about three months to make 20 wigs.
“The impact has been very satisfying. When we get calls from the beneficiaries, it brings us tears of joy. 220 wigs have been made till now and about 120 of them have been given to the Cancer Institute,” says Shashwathi.
Rennee further explains that the psyche of a person plays a very important role in health. If it gets affected, it leads to various other diseases. Especially when children go bald, it affects their self-esteem and depresses them. Due to lack of awareness on hair donation, there are very few hair donors in India. People donate their hair, knowing that it would be used for someone who needs it.
“The cost of 220 wigs comes up to 9 lakhs. We are extremely thankful to our ever enthusiastic sponsors, but we would really appreciate it if more organisations and well wishers come forward,” tells Shashwathi.
“Not only women, but even men promise to grow their hair and donate it!” laughs Rennee.
The team has received about 14 awards since its inception.
Shashwathi explains: “Our main aim is to make women, young girls and children affected by cancer psychologically confident, give them a feeling that they are no way lesser than the rest, that they are neither ugly nor inferior and that they have to move on, to be a better person, to make a positive impact and most importantly, to obtain the willpower to lead their lives with self-esteem. While most of us dream of fancy cars and houses, a little girl somewhere, fighting cancer, dreams of having her hair again.”
So what keeps them going?
“I believe that when you really want to do something for someone, money will not be an issue; things will automatically fall in place. We are able to put a smile on people’s faces – there cannot be a joy greater than that!” signs off Rennee.
Several celebrities from the Tamil Film Industry have come forward to support the cause. To sponsor and to know more about this initiative, visit their Facebook page. Or mail them at – firstname.lastname@example.org