Donating is a noble act and needless to say there is no dearth of people who donate generously in various forms like cash, alms, services, clothing, toys and food. Besides, there are also people who volunteer to donate blood and organs. But not too many people are aware of hair donation.
As strange as it may sound, a campaign is on to encourage people, women in particular, to join hair donation drive. Presently due to lack of awareness about it, there are very few hair donors in India. So, there is a need sensitise people and host more hair donation events.
Hair donation, why?
When a woman suffers from massive hair loss due illnesses like cancer, the result can be devastating to her self-esteem. Though wigs are available for cancer patients, who lose hair due to repeated chemotherapy sessions, good quality ones are usually expensive, making it unaffordable for many people. So, hair donations often help the organizations producing wigs to be given free to people living with cancer.
A few women who snipped off their hair to help out the cancer victims shared their feelings with Sunday POST.
Hailing from Baripada, Shruti, who donated her pony tail in December 2020 says, “I came to know about hair donation when I was studying in Class X. We had a chapter about cancer in our syllabus. Therefore, I knew that chemotherapy leads to hair loss in a patient and how it hurts one’s self-esteem. So, I decided to donate my locks but I had no idea how to make it possible. I was also not sure how my friends and relatives would react to it.”
In the meantime, five years elapsed but Shruti couldn’t donate hair. During lockdown, a few branded beauty salons opened their branches in Baripada. Excited, she contacted them to find out whether they accept hair to make wigs and donate free of cost to women undergoing chemotherapy but in vain. However, she didn’t lose hope. Around same time, she came in contact with Anandamayee, a girl from Bhubaneswar who was pursuing her integrated B.Ed at MPC Autonomous College, Baripada.
Shruti says, “I met her incidentally when she came to college to collect her migration certificate. My happiness knew no bounds when I learnt that she donates her hair to an organization which makes free wigs for the cancer patients. Through her, I contacted a volunteer of that organisation and he made my dream of donating hair for the cancer survivors come true. I am also thankful to my grandparents and mother who encouraged me in this regard.”
Not just the hair, Shruti has already registered her name to donate eyes and other organs.
Pragyan Parimita and Divya
The mother-daughter duo Pragyan Parimita Behera and Divya Aradhya Das recently snipped off their locks to bring back smiles of some cancer patients. While Divya let go her 18-inch-long hair, her mother donated her well grown 25 inches of hair. Her hair will grow back fast and she will be happy to do something for those who have lost their hair to the deadly cancer, a resilient Divya convinced her mother when the latter was little apprehensive about chopping her seven-year-old daughter’s hair.
The kid with a heart of gold took the decision to chop off her hair when her mother, a principal of Namita Devi B.Ed College, showed her videos of cancer patients who turned bald after undergoing chemotherapy. She didn’t trim her hair for the last two years so that she could donate it. The Saint Joseph Secondary High School student is also encouraging her friends to join this initiative.
Applauding Divya, Pragyan says “Divya is a vibrant and pretty girl with cascading hair that she was proud of, often tying it in beaded knots. She came to know about the plight of the cancer survivors when the video of actress Rajeswari Ray Mohapatra, a close friend of mine who battles the deadly disease, became viral. She expressed her keen interest to help those who suffered from the disease by donating her hair. It was shocking for me but I also felt proud of her. Accordingly Action Trust, an organisation that offers free wigs to cancer patients, held a camp where we along with four of my students donated our hair. We will have camp next month and are readying six persons for the cause. We parceled the hair parcel to Tata Institute to make wigs for the needy.”
Divya says, “If we chop off our hair, we can get back. But cancer patients who are losing their hair won’t get it back. So, it’s a small step to make them smile. I would love to grow my hair, cut off the locks and donate them for wigs.”
“If you have watched a loved one go through cancer treatment, or if you have gone through cancer treatment yourself, you may have felt an urge to give back. There are many ways you can help them. Fortunately, donating your hair is a non-monetary way that you can benefit people living with cancer directly”, says Delhi-based Odia girl Srestha Mohapatra who donated her hair in 2018.
Srestha Mohapatra, a software professional, was in shock seeing the massive hair loss of her mother’s close after a few sessions of chemotherapy . She decided to donate her hair to the organisation which makes wigs and distributes them to the cancer patients free of cost.
“We all know that cancer patients lose their hair due to radiation and chemotherapy. But seeing someone close to you losing hair as part of cancer treatment is really difficult. When I saw the condition of my mom’s friend, I could imagine how painful it is for the cancer patients who did not have hair at all due to their ongoing treatment. Besides, buying a wig is a difficult task for poor cancer patients because of its high price. As I was blessed with long hair, I donated it to bring smiles on their faces by cutting 12 inches of my hair. I felt happy inside by doing my bit”, says Srestha adding that some of her friends too follow suit.
Srestha is now nurturing her hair well to donate again.
Despite being a cancer patient, Bhubaneswar-based social worker Bijoylaxmi Kar donated her hair for other cancer patients in December 2019.
“I saw an advertisement about a beauty salon collecting hair to donate for the cancer patients. Being a survivor, I knew the pain and stigma of untimely hair loss. Fortunately I had long hair, so I went to the salon and cut eight inches of it. I was the first person in the salon to do so. Donating is not a big deal because you can grow your hair again. It’s an effort to motivate women having long hair to do their bit for cancer patients and build up their confidence”, says the Managing Director of Aarati Finances. Bijoylaxmi has been leading a normal life for the last 12 years after her recovery from acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a type of cancer that starts in the blood-generating cells of the bone marrow.
Criteria for hair donation
- Hair needs to be clean and dry and placed in a braid or ponytail before it is cut. You should not apply any hair products, such as gel, mousse, or hairspray, and the hair should be completely dry before it is packed for shipping.
- Only your natural hair is accepted; no hair extensions, dreadlocks, or wigs.
- Your ponytail or braid needs to be a certain length to be accepted. Curly hair can be pulled straight to make the measurement. Requirements usually range between 8 inches and 14 inches.
- Some organisations accept bleached hair, but highlighted hair is usually not accepted.
- For privacy purposes, donors are not linked up with recipients.
- Most organisations allow you to have your haircut at your regular stylist and then sent to their location.
- Many of these organisations will give you a certificate for donating your hair.
Rashmi Rekha Das, OP