S'pore students lead hair donation drive to make wigs for cancer patients

First-time hair donor Isabel Siow donated 28cm of her hair at Hazelina Salon. PHOTO: ELSIE TAN

SINGAPORE - If you are planning to get a haircut soon, hold off on that. Let it grow longer, so that you can donate your hair to make wigs for cancer patients and make a difference in their lives.

Project Haircatchers, a non-profit initiative by a group of 23 students from different schools, hopes to make at least 50 wigs with the support of 200 donors this year.

The wigs will be distributed to its four partner organisations - Bali Pink Ribbon, Cancer Society of Maldives, FeM Surgery and Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF).

Due to the pandemic, the hair donation drive will be spread over several weeks and venues, and is open to all.

The Early Bird Donation (EBD) drive began in June last year, where donors who met the requirement of having at least 22cm of non-curly hair could donate in advance. The donation took place from July to August last year, and 18 wigs were made with the support of more than 70 donors.

The main donation drive will take place this month and next month. Some donors can go to Hazelina Salon located at Delfi Orchard, till Feb 27, and D'tress Salon in Clementi from March 7 to March 27.

But most donors still have to find their own means to cut their hair, as the salons provide free haircuts only to donors allocated by Project Haircatchers.

Project Haircatchers has also set up various means of fund-raising to cover the costs of making wigs, which is a hefty $180 per piece. Donors can visit its Instagram account to find the QR codes, or visit the Give.Asia platform.

The project was initiated by students from Nanyang Girls' High School (NYGH) in 2017. It continued in 2018, but was briefly discontinued afterwards.

It was limited to NYGH students, who collected donations and donated hair. In both years, 78 wigs were delivered.

In late 2020, students Yeo Limin and Rebecca Koh, now both 19, decided to resume the project, as they were inspired to do more for those with cancer. Miss Koh was motivated because a relative of hers lost her hair due to cancer treatment.

The team also decided to expand its target audience to the general public, and set a more ambitious goal in terms of wig numbers.

Student Cheng Lian Xin donated 48cm of her hair. PHOTO: ELSIE TAN

Student Megan Wong, 20, was part of the pioneering team in 2017, and continues to contribute to the project as a mentor.

She said: "I had a heart for cancer patients, as my younger brother is a survivor of childhood leukaemia. Hence, when there was this opportunity to pioneer a self-initiated project for cancer patients, I jumped at it.

"The experience has been very rewarding. In the first year, things were easier, as we received guidance from the Recycle Your Hair (campaign), and we could focus on raising awareness and volunteer recruitment. In the second year, we ran the event ourselves. It was not an easy process, but we were thankful to the NYGH staff for their continuous support to help us hit our targets and raise enough funds to produce all the wigs."

BCF partnered with Project Haircatchers in 2017 and 2018, and will partner with the project again this year. BCF runs a complimentary Wig Loan programme which allows members to borrow the wigs and return them once they no longer need them, so other members can benefit from them.

A BCF spokesman said: "Changes in physical appearance can be challenging for women who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer. We want to support them in staying confident and feeling beautiful as they go through their breast cancer journey.

"Project Haircatchers has worked with us by donating wigs to our programme for our warriors to go on with their social and professional lives during treatment.

"A big thank you on behalf of the breast cancer community and Team BCF. We appreciate the time you take to grow and take care of your hair in preparation for donation. It takes a big heart to do this, and we laud you for your contributions."

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