NAT 191110 OOEHS HAIR DONATION ARAMZAN-21-1573382292516
Students and support staff at at Our Own Indian School, Al Qouz, Dubai, donated their hair for cancer patients to mark both Pink Month and UAE National Day, on 10th November 2019. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: When a teacher was measuring her hair in the run up to the Pink Day celebration of GEMS Our Own Indian School in Dubai last Thursday, support staff member Mahalakshmi Giddi had no qualms about the length of the hair that she would be losing.

“You take ma’am. You take my full hair if you want,” she told the teacher.

The Indian mother was among the 48 students, support staff and parent volunteers who donated their hair to make wigs for cancer patients and also mark the upcoming 48th UAE National Day at the school in Al Quoz on Sunday.

48 girls, women donate hair at Indian school in Dubai's Al Quoz Sonia Shah, videographer

While most of the donors had only read about or seen cancer-stricken patients, Giddi had lost her five-year-old son to brain cancer last year.

Speaking to Gulf News after her hair was cut in front of hundreds of girls and teachers wearing pink in support of breast cancer patients, Giddi said she had come to Dubai two years ago to earn money for her son’s treatment.

“He was given 14 chemo sessions and 29 radiation sessions. He wouldn’t go outside after he lost his hair. Every time I called, he would ask when he would get his hair back.”

Giddi, whose elder son is now 14, was happy that her long locks of hair would give some solace to other cancer patients.

Girls studying from grade two to 12 formed the majority of the volunteers who happily gave up their hair in different shapes and lengths to bring a smile to cancer patients who lose hair following their treatment.

‘She didn’t attend daughter’s wedding’

Fathima Abdul Latheef, a grade nine student, said she had never cut her hair. She realised the pain of cancer patients when one of her aunts, who lost her hair after chemo therapy for breast cancer, confined herself within her house.

“She didn’t attend her own daughter’s wedding. We sadly lost her two years ago. I thought a lot about why she didn’t want to face the society. Is it because of her hair? Then I was motivated seeing my schoolmates donating hair last year. So I felt maybe it is time for me also to do it.”

When she decided to donate her hair, Siddhi Mamgain said she had been told she would get blessings from everyone.

“But it was really never about the blessings. It’s about maybe bringing a life to someone, just making them happy in some way or the other. If my hair could just give someone the will to live, that would be... like… all I want in my life. This [initiative] could really bring a smile to a lot of people.”

The grade nine student, who is also the Social Welfare Leader at the school, urged women, especially those with a family history of breast cancer, to do early checkups. “If it is diagnosed early, we can fight it. I want breast cancer to be completely eliminated and I want everyone to be happy.”

Growing number of donors

Nishamol Lal, the teacher in-charge of the initiative, said the hair donation campaign in the school has been growing over the years. “When we helped some kids donate hair to Friends of Cancer Patients four years ago, there were only four donors. Last year, we had 36. We weren’t able to organise it during the Pink Month in October as we had a tight schedule with KHDA inspections and exams. Today, we are observing the Pink Day and also dedicating this deed in celebration of the 48th UAE National Day with 48 donors. We have also received hair from four more donors who had already cut and saved it for donation. All donations will be handed over to FOCP.”

Principal Lalitha Suresh told the donors: “This is something that you are going to remember for life. When you grow as old as me and you think about your school days, you will always remember the day you gave your hair for a worthy cause. It is so important for us to contribute to the society to understand that there are people suffering and also create awareness among all women and men who suffer from breast cancer.”