SUR

Hair donations bring smiles to chemotherapy patients

Asociación Esperanza and ATIS have begun campaigns to encourage people to donate their hair for wigs, and the group Mechones Solidarios suggests sponsorship to cover costs

CLAUDIA SAN MARTÍN

They are united on a path that is made much easier and lighter if you have the necessary support. And along the way, many more supportive people are joining in, to further a cause that they also make their own. I'm referring to the women of Asociación Esperanza in Axarquía, and the support they receive from the public, on an ongoing basis, because this network of solidarity is becoming ever stronger and more resilient, reaching further than ever before.

They have now joined forces with ATIS, an association of social integration workers that operates a canteen and food bank, for a campaign aimed at ensuring that no woman with any type of cancer feels deprived or alone, especially when they have lost their hair through chemotherapy and they no longer feel like themselves.

The campaign is called 'Trenzando Solidaridad' and they are calling on men and women all over Malaga province who have their hair cut in the next few months to donate it to the cause.

Donating hair

Marisa Gámez, the spokeswoman for the Esperanza association, said some donations have already begun to arrive and they are being sent, with great care, to the AECC Spanish Association Against Cancer, who will have them made into wigs for many of these women.

The collaboration with ATIS, as well as raising awareness in general of a situation which affects many women in the Axarquía area, is also helping to spread the message further and encouraging more people to donate their hair when they have it cut. However, there is one thing to remember: hair must be at least 25 centimetres long in order to be incorporated into a wig.

To encourage people to participate, ATIS will also enter those who donate their hair in a draw, with prizes of 300 euros of school materials, computer equipment and books.

They are also offering assistance to people who do not live near Vélez-Málaga, by organising the transportation of the hair at no extra cost to the donor. They can be contacted via their social media accounts or by emailing comedorsolidario2013@gmail.com.

Marisa Gámez, who also had cancer some years ago, says she used to wear a wig so that people didn't realise she had lost her hair because, as she describes it, wearing a scarf feels like putting a label on yourself.

«With a wig, you at least feel a bit more like yourself, because when you have chemotherapy you lose a lot of things as a person and the hair disguises that,» she says.

'Sewing smiles'

Meanwhile in Malaga city, for the past eight years, Mechones Solidarios has also been making wigs for women who have lost their hair through chemotherapy, alopecia or other causes.

Estela Guerisoli, who is behind the project, began on her own, embarking on an arduous and complicated task which required a great deal of persistence. Now, she has five more women to help her sew 20 wigs a month, using natural hair which has been donated.

Their method is rather unusual: the Mechones Solidarios team, through a social worker, evaluates the requests from women and men who want a wig, depending on their income. Estela explains that, although the hair is donated, it costs around 400 euros to make a wig so it is impossible to gift them all free of charge. They send the wigs all over Spain and many do have some cost associated with them, although in many cases it is very low or there may be none at all. This is the way they are able to continue.

Sponsor a wig

Now, with the arrival of the pandemic, Estela and the other women have found themselves in difficult circumstances because they receive no financial assistance from the authorities; before, they were able to carry on making the wigs thanks to fundraising events and donations from people who supported their work, but nowadays they have had to think up another way of ensuring they don't have to close down and extinguish the smiles of the women who need their help.

The solution they have come up with to enable them to continue filling some of the orders they receive every month is for people to sponsor the wigs. Anyone who is interested in helping with the cause can donate any amount of money for a wig or project, so that it can be completed and the new owner can receive it as soon as possible.

«The people who have very little money have priority, because they can't afford to buy one. It is very rare for us to charge the whole cost of the wig, but it is the only way that we can carry on making more. This is extremely minute and detailed work, and it can be very monotonous, so you have to like doing it,» said Estela, showing one of her recently created wigs. The work is absolutely meticulous, filling every single hole and ensuring that the final result looks as real as possible.

While waiting for the situation to improve and to be able to return to their normal fundraising events and activities, Mechones Solidarios invites anyone who wants to collaborate with the cause to visit their social media and website (mechonessolidarios.com), where they will find information about the different types of donations and campaigns. Those who do so can also see who will be receiving the wig, and whose life will be changed for the better thanks to a simple gesture.