CANSA Kindest Cut Hair Donation Campaign

By: Nicolette Gardiner Bosman

WHY NOT HAVE THE KINDEST HAIRCUT TO BENEFIT CANCER SURVIVORS?

Have you ever felt a sense of regret on watching your beautiful locks, which took you so long to grow, being swept up off the hairdressing salon’s floor? Well, did you know that those very locks can be used to create much-needed wigs for cancer patients?

When my friend, Kathy Tinney, decided she wanted to cut her long tresses, she contacted the CANSA Head Office in Bedfordview[1] to find out how to go about it. On their website, she looked up ‘Human Hair Donation’, where she read up about The Kindest Cut programme. She discovered that donated hair must be cut off and delivered in a ponytail/plait of no less than 25cm in length.

Ponytail hair donation measured
Measurement of the ponytail (photo supplied by Kathy Tinney)

So on every visit to her hairdresser, who was familiar with the CANSA requirements, the hair length would be carefully measured. Human hair is estimated to grow about half a millimetre per day, so growing it to 25 cm can take a while. Eventually, Kathy’s hair reached the required length and on her next visit, she was excited when it was neatly plaited, tied securely at both ends, and then carefully cut off. Kathy left the salon, proudly bearing her gift in a Ziploc bag.

Before hair donation
Before hair donation (photo provided by Kathy Tinney)
After hair donation
After hair donation (photo provided by Kathy Tinney)

She established that she could either deliver it to the CANSA offices in Bedfordview or post it to them. Donations can be posted to any CANSA Care Centre, but ideally to the Head Office. She opted to do the former and I tagged along to find out more about the procedure. The lady to deal with is Lucinda Carter (lcarter@cansa.org.za), a cancer survivor herself, but as she was out of the office that day, the CANSA representative on duty invited us into the room where the wigs are kept. Kathy had completed the necessary donation form and happily handed it over with her blonde plait.

Wigs on display
Wigs on display (photo provided by CANSA)

He opened the cupboards and showed us a collection of wigs, ready for cancer patients to select from. He explained that the wigs are given out free of charge to those who need them, although they are welcome to make a donation towards maintenance costs. Between two and four wigs per month are handed out to clients who visit the office and requests are also received from other CANSA Care Centres around the country. Wigs can also be hired, again on a donation basis, and returned when no longer required.

So, what is the procedure?

‘We get so many people from all over South Africa who are keen to donate their hair. At our regular CANSA Shavathon events, we also have trained staff and volunteers on hand to cut the ponytails off donors whose hair is long enough to donate,’ Lucy Balona, head of marketing and communication stated.

From there, all the collected hair is sent to two wig suppliers, where it is sorted, treated and prepared. A large number of donations are required to make a single wig and it is also necessary to match hair colours and textures for a wig. Once the wigs are ready, they are sent back to us to await collection by clients who have lost their hair as a result of cancer-related treatment. The wigs enable the restoration of dignity for those who don’t enjoy their hairless state, while their hair grows back.’

A huge shout-out to Tymeless Hair & Wigs, the company that makes up the wigs for CANSA free of charge. Marketing Manager of CANSA, Lucy Balona, told me: ‘There is a huge need and demand for wigs and the problem we sometimes face is that the wig makers have enough hair but are not able to keep up with the demand.’ Any other human hair wig makers out there that want to join Tymeless Hair & Wigs in this valuable task? Contact Lucinda Carter if you do.

Help a cancer patient

My husband suffered from liver cancer and I spent many hours at the Donald Gordon Hospital outpatients unit accompanying him for chemotherapy. I saw many ladies there who benefit from this project. The human spirit is wonderful and some ladies who lose their hair proudly sport a new bald look, while others use intricate scarf headdresses. Having a wig, however, provides the option of a sense of normality and helps people going through treatment not to feel confronted by their condition every time they look in a mirror.

While chemotherapy is designed to attack the cancer cells in the body, it also affects other cells and hair follicles are often destroyed, causing hair to fall out. This has the potential to negatively affect a cancer patient’s self-esteem.

CANSA during lockdown

During lockdown CANSA was not able to accept new donations so it was encouraging to see this announcement on their website, cansa.org.za:

We are happy to announce that we will receive hair donations again. Please submit as follows at your local CANSA Care Centre:

  • Hair donations are to be delivered in zip-lock plastic bags (to prevent handling of the hair).
  • Our CANSA team will wipe down the plastic bag with disinfectant and it will be kept in a secure area for seven days prior to further processing e.g. send to wig makers.
  • The period of seven days of keeping the hair at the facility, is to ensure the COVID-19 virus would no longer be viable on the surface of hair.

Show your support

If you have hair that grows abundantly, what are you waiting for? Instead of seeing it swept away, please grow it to at least 25cm and contact CANSA to make a donation. I would love to do this but my fine hair, unfortunately, battles to grow beyond shoulder length! So dear Profusion reader, my contribution is to make you aware of the Kindest Cut Campaign and to appeal to you to support it.

Inspiration from CANSA

If you need more inspiration, have a look at some of the comments from donors and potential donors on the CANSA website. The one that touched my heart the most is from a young girl wanting to donate her hair so that another young girl can have a wig:

Gina says:

12 Aug 2020 at 08:50

My daughter is 8 years old and out of the blue she asked if we could arrange for her hair to be cut and then donate it to another little girl that does not have hair. Thought it was such a lovely act of kindness. May God bless her and also the person receiving her beautiful long blond hair.

CANSA logo

  • Debbie @CANSA says:

12 Aug 2020 at 14:16

Please thank your precious young daughter for her caring heart, Gina. This will truly mean the world to a wig recipient.

 

[1] CANSA, 27 Concorde Road West, BEDFORDVIEW, Germiston, 2007.

011 6167662/ Info@cansa.org.za/ www.cansa.org.za

P.O. Box 2121, Bedfordview 2008

 

Watch this video to see the wig-making process (video provided by CANSA):

 

Read more about organisations like this one on PRO-Care.

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