It’s fitting that the conclusion of International Breast Cancer Awareness Month heralds a new support for female cancer victims – specifically women undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy is a treatment that attacks cancerous cells in the body, but in doing so it often affects healthy cells, which results in many women losing their hair. This effect on their appearance can be a further setback to women who are already enduring physical and emotional hardship.
The notion seems trivial in the context of cancer, but providing women with well-made wigs can do wonders for their self-esteem, as well as provide an important psychological boost in their fight against the disease. But to make wigs you need hair – preferably human hair – which is why a number of charities around the globe collect hair to make into wigs for cancer patients. It was only a matter of time before the UAE caught on.
‘I never thought the concept would take off in this region,’ admits Lola Lopez of local charitable group Volunteer in Dubai. ‘Women [here] like long hair, they like to dye it [dyed hair cannot be donated] – you don’t get many short pixie haircuts in this country! So I never thought women would want to cut off their hair, and even if they did, I didn’t think their hair would be in the right condition for the project.’
Yet despite Lola’s reservations, she was encouraged by the number of women who kept asking her whether Volunteer in Dubai might spearhead such a scheme. The proverbial hair that broke the camel’s back was when Premi Matthew of Protect Your Mom Campaign (a group that raises breast cancer awareness via Facebook) broached the subject. ‘She was the fifth person to bring it up. I thought maybe I wasn’t the only person to be thinking about it, so why not give it a go?’
As a result, Volunteer in Dubai and Protect Your Mum Campaign have joined forces to create Hair for Hope, which launches on October 29 at JetSet Altitude Salon in Emirates Towers. More than 50 people have already signed up (including two men and their ponytails), all of whom have volunteered to have their hair cut for free and donate the offcuts to the cause. Lola is under no illusions and knows that there is still much more work to do if Hair for Hope is to establish itself to provide local women with wigs. But it’s a start.
As Lola points out, Hair for Hope is a launch event that sends a message. ‘People who only have 15cm of hair to offer now – which isn’t long enough for the campaign – can keep growing it: don’t cut it until you have 20cm, then come back and get a free haircut.’
Lola estimates that it will take two years of publicity before Hair for Hope is firmly established, but explains that it needs to start somewhere: at present, there is nowhere in the Middle East that makes wigs for cancer patients, which is why Hope for Hair is sending the hair it collects to US-based wigmakers Beautiful Lengths, which has made more than 18,000 wigs for cancer patients.
This is just the beginning, Lola is in touch with The King Hussein Cancer Centre in Jordan and a wigmaker in Lebanon that has stores here in Dubai, so donated hair will stay in the region and will support regional cancer patients.
Meanwhile, those who would like to help out but don’t have a sufficiently lengthy barnet can book a treatment on the day (a trim and blow-dry, for instance), with the money going to the cause. For everyone else, it’s time to cancel your hair appointment and get growing for a good cause.
To donate your hair, ladies’ appointments can be made through JetSet Altitude Salon (04 330 0886); men should contact 1847 in Emirates Towers (04 330 1847). The event takes place on October 29, 9am-11pm. www.volunteerindubai.com
Want to donate?
Anyone who is having their hair cut for this cause will receive their haircut free of charge.
1 Hair must be at least 20cm long (no maximum length).
2 Wavy or curly hair can be measured and quantified when straight.
3 Hair must be free of permanent colour, bleach or other chemical treatments such as the Japanese straightening system.
4 Vegetable dyes, semi-permanent dyes and rinses are acceptable, but untouched hair is preferred.
5 Hair must be no more than five per cent grey.
All donated hair will be sent via Aramex to Beautiful Lengths, www.beautifullengths.ca