Chennai-based Cherian Foundation supports cancer patients suffering hair loss

The private charitable trust provides free wigs to hospitals for them to donate to underprivileged cancer patients

The private charitable trust provides free wigs to hospitals for them to donate to underprivileged cancer patients

Almost every member of the Srivatsan household in Vadapalani has had a ‘hair-raising’ experience in recent times. Forty-two-year-old Srivatsan Mohan grew his hair till it was 12-inches-long and made the cut for donation.

When he donated his hair in June 2021, unknown to himself, Srivatsan was inspiring his son, nine-year-old Surya, who gave away his hair last month. Srivatsan’s wife and daughter – Smitha and Shreya — have donated their tresses at least twice .

It is remarkable that an increasing number of men donate their hair for the making of wigs for cancer patients. The Cherian Foundation, a private charitable trust, has data to bolster this view: Since 2019, there have been 3833 donors and more than 400 of they are men.

Sara Benjamin Cherian, trustee, The Cherian Foundation, says it is common to see mother-daughter and college girls grow their hair to donate it for this cause, but seeing men and children doing it is refreshing.

Hair donors among children are clearly on the rise. Recently, 13-year-old VS Yadhukrishnan donated 36 cm of his hair after growing it for more than two years, taking ridicule from peers in his stride.

“Our youngest donor is five-years-old,” says Sara.

With more people getting diagonised with cancer, demand for wigs has shot up.

Sara says the Foundation is now getting calls from many hospitals and independent doctors seeking wigs for their patients. At the height of the pandemic, many postponed the screening, and hence, the increased number of cancer diagnoses.

“We do not just give away free wigs, but also handhold the cancer patients,” says Sara.

The Foundation runs a support service that provides patients battling the disease with the right information. They have also published videos in regional languages ​​so that patients can learn how to wear and maintain simple wigs.

“This is a sustained initiative where we work closely with hospitals,” she says.

They also run an initiative where the partner hospitals are encouraged to return the wigs after two years to be sanitised, refurbished and made available again.

To help cancer patients look beautiful, there are wigs in various colours too.

“Earlier, we were only making black hair. Now we do grey, medium grey and brown hair. The wigs come in different hair types — curly, straight, wavy,” says Sara.

Much as they want people to donate hair, they would not accept hair that is bleached or coloured.

Sara says a private hospital in Chennai wanted a smaller cap for a child and they went all out to make one.

A team of 20 is involved in making more than 250 wigs a year. Sara says a commercial wig costs ₹25,000 in the market and many cannot afford them.

The cost of making a wig is ₹7500, of which ₹2500 is sponsored by B & H Exports, the parent company of the Foundation, says a note on the website.

Through ‘Gift Hair Gift Confidence’, the signature campaign run by the Foundation, donations are made through various drives conducted in schools, colleges and offices.

The Adyar Cancer Institute has been one of the long-standing beneficiaries of the initiative. “Till date, we have donated 770 wigs free of cost to beneficiaries only through reputed cancer hospitals,” says Sara.

“We find hundreds of new donors through social media, especially through Instagram and we acknowledge every donor,” says Sara, adding that the “Best way one can volunteer is to give hair to make wigs.”

For details, visit https://cherianfoundation.org/

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