As the buzz of the shaver came close to her scalp, 18-year-old Natasha Sundra Rajoo could not help but wince. Gathered at the assembly hall, her friends watched with bated breath as her long black locks fell with each stroke.
The teenager was not trying to make a fashion statement. Neither was she on the receiving end of some unorthodox disciplinary action.
Instead, as one of 122 youngsters at St Joseph’s Institution (SJI) International who had decided to shave their heads in the name of childhood cancer awareness yesterday, Natasha was there in support of the Children’s Cancer Foundation’s Hair for Hope initiative. Amongst all the student participants, 11 were girls.
“My grandmother had cancer but that’s not really the drive as to why I want to do it,” the young girl said. She explained that even though shaving her head bald isn’t quite the same as experiencing cancer, it is a way of better understanding the challenges faced by cancer patients, and in turn allows her to confront her own insecurities about what it means to be beautiful.
Since 2011, Hair for Hope has been a yearly fundraising affair at SJI International, organised and initiated by the students themselves. Besides promoting awareness about childhood cancer itself, the event’s proceeds assist cancer children and their loved ones. The act of shaving also assures children who have cancer know that being bald is all right.
Having raised $63,000 through online donations so far, the students and teachers have already outdone last year’s amount of $31,000. Besides the 122 students who shaved their heads completely bald, another 55 had their hair trimmed to Beautiful Lengths to make wigs for cancer children.
Amongst the 11 girls who plucked up enormous courage to get their heads shaved for charity, all of them had a rather similar answer when asked why they decided to do it – it was something with purpose.
Year 11 student Rishika Nair, who was participating in her first Hair for Hope said, “I’ve always admired people who have the courage to shave their heads because it’s sacrificing something you have for people who don’t have the same privilege to have hair and to grow hair.”
Despite her parents being initially apprehensive about her going bald, Rishika remained determined to stand with cancer patients. Admitting that even though it’s scary to lose her hair, she never had second thoughts. Her resolve eventually inspired her family to actively canvass donations from colleagues, friends and relatives to raise $3,450 in her name. Rishika’s 15-year-old sister may even follow in her footsteps by going for Beautiful Lengths.
She intends to wear her new baldness proudly and covering up is not on the cards. Said Rishika, “Every girl’s hair is part of her pride. If you shave off your hair, you lose some confidence. But if you’re shaving your head to support this cause, there’s no point wearing a beanie, it would defeat the purpose. Being able to show that I’m on this journey with the patients is an amazing thing.”
Commending the students’ enthusiasm in organising the initiative, principal Bradley Roberts saved special praise for the 11 girls who stood out from the school’s 494-strong female student population. He said, “In some ways, it’s much braver than boys because it’s taken them much longer to grow their hair, and almost all of them have never in their lives cut all their hair off. It’s stepping into territory they’ve never done before, and that’s exceptionally brave.”
And for some of these young souls, the decision to go bald was as much a show of solidarity to girls suffering from cancer as it was a sign of empowerment to other female schoolmates who found it hard to lose their hair for charity. They participated to tell other girls that being bald isn’t just all right, but beautiful.
Holding onto a bunch of her locks, 15-year-old Lara Danani wanted to let other girls who might be reluctant to lose their locks know that even without their hair, “girls can still be pretty”.
Getting involved with Hair for Hope
The Hair for Hope 2016 main event takes place at VivoCity Central Court A and B, Level 1, on 30 & 31 July. While online registration has closed, those interested can still participate by signing up as walk-in shavees at VivoCity Level 3, Amphitheater. The event will be held at the following timeslots:
30 July – 11am to 7pm
31 July – 11am to 6pm
All proceeds will go towards the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) to aid the sustainability of its free programmes and services to all beneficiaries.
Alternatively, you may make a donation to CCF’s cause.