Name of the activity: DPC-Donate hair for children

Country/NMO: Romania (FASMR)

Program: Children Health & Rights

 

Contact information: [email protected]

Type of the activity: Third Party Activities

 

General description:

The “DPC-Donate hair for children” project aims to help children with cancer who have lost their hair after treatments, by making donations of wigs. The wigs are supposed to make the children feel comfortable again with their appearence, to be more positive and determine them to fight for their lives . DPC is a new concept in Romania, initiated 2 years ago by the Medical Students’ Society of Iasi and extended afterwards in Bucharest.
We received over 2,000 hair tails and had many fundraising activities that helped us give the first wig to a girl who suffered from cancer in august 2015. The cost of making a wig ranges between 90 and 300 euros, the total budget currently needed would be estimated at over 20,000 euros. This budget varies depending on the number of hair tails we receive and the number of tricks used to make a wig. So far, about 10,000 euros have been collected through donations and sponsorships and we want to continue our project to reach as many children in need as possible.
Being a child should be all about happiness and joy but, unfortunately, cancer takes that away for millions of children every day. “DPC-Donate Hair For Children” aims to bring some light in their childhood by offering them wigs made out of natural hair. The purpose of this is to make them integrate easier in the society and feel as normal as any other child of their age. Children that have cancer are a vulnerable category and we, as medical students, have to protect them and motivate them to fight against this terrible disease.

Focus area:

Children’s mental health, Children’s rights, Children’s rights with emphasis on non-discrimination, Children’s rights with emphasis on the right to health and access to healthcare services

Problem statement:

Romania does not have a functional registry for rare and chronic diseases of children. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have published recently the first official numbers of children who suffer for cancer in the new Children’s Cancer Registry. Their study reveals that 6 children are diagnosed each week with cancer. In this context, the applicability of our initiative to make wigs for children who lose their hair after treatments is very understandable.
Most families put on the first place the expenses that help to improve the physical symptoms of children. “DPC-Donate hair for children” aims to ensure the comfort and trust of children whose appearance faces multiple changes. We are well-aware of the cancer treatments’ aggression and that one of their side-effects is that they determine the hair loss.
This is why we encourage people to donate hair in order to make the wigs that children could wear after losing their hair. The quality of life of these poorly tried children deserves particular attention.
This is also the motto of “DPC-Donate hair for children” project, to bring them joy and help them regain the confidence in their own beauty. Positive thinking is very important for a faster recovery – in happy situations – or to live as good as possible and uninhibited by the physical appearance – in less happy situations. One simple gesture inspired this big movement across Romania and we are determined to reach as many people as possible in order to provide assistance to every member of our society, especially children in difficulty.

Target groups and beneficiaries:

The target group of the project is made up of children with cancer from Romania. Beneficiaries in the broad sense are the children, the people around them, but also those who are willing to contribute by donating hair and the persons who financially support the manufacturing of the wigs. Besides the main purpose of helping children, we promote a behavior conductive to the development of each individual in the society we are living.
Last but not least, another important group that will benefit from the involvment in this project is represented by the medical students that will develop social, fundraising and patient interaction skills. They will use this ability not only in their future as a doctor, but in their everyday life.

Objectives and indicators of success:

• Raise cancer awareness among the public : Promoting our project puts a spotlight on the types of cancer that largely affect children and ways people worldwide could support them during the treatment. Since we started the project, we have received more than 2000 hair tails that helped us reach a big number of sick children who needed a wig. Informing our community with the actual health problems is a huge step in order to make it stronger and we want to continue the involvement of people in helping those who suffer from cancer. Also, since the project was continuously awarded on national level, we consider that the impact of our actions is getting bigger and we are making more people familiar with this terrible pathology that affects children worldwide.
• Raise funds to support children with cancer : We have succeeded promoting the project on a national level, fact that facilitated us the contact with many people who were interested to support our cause and donate money. Since 2015, we have received donations of about 10.000 euros from people all around the country and it has also won a sponsorship (1500 euros) from Community Foundation of Iasi through crowdfunding. The interest people have to support our actions helped us produce 96 wigs that reached the children in need. We are looking forward to expand our sponsors and partners in order to help even more children.
• Improve the quality of life of the children with cancer: The effects of hair loss go deeper than just a change in a child’s appearance, because it affects their entire existence. It is hard enough for a child to go through a tough treatment that has already altered their lifestyle and here we want to interfere to make their life easier. We want to continue raising awareness and the society is also starting to understand that an important step in their treatment is to make these children feel comfortable and stay positive. Somebody’s hair can really help someone who doesn’t have theirs anymore. A wig is something that we can offer because it will bring them some joy after all they have been through.

Methodology:

The project was initiated in March 2015. The first ponytail donation was made by the founder of the project. The concept of donating hair was heavily promoted across mass-media and social networks and a considerable number of people have shown their interest to get involved.
We wanted to make the project as accessible as possible to all of them so we started looking for contact persons in each and every city we had donors in. Becoming a member of our team was not conditioned by being a medical student, having a good Curriculum Vitae or previous volunteering experience, but solely by having shown an interest in humanitarian actions and supporting the cause by donating one’s own hair.
We have always considered “DPC-Donate hair for the children” as being a project of the entire community, since a single donation inspired a movement across the country and brought together people from all ages and social classes. Furthermore, we signed partnerships with hairdressers all over Romania so they could offer free haircuts (and some of them have also been offering free styling and other services) to those who wanted to donate their ponytails to our cause. By the end of 2015 we had collected over 2000 ponytails from 40 cities in Romania.
We had difficulties implementing the project at first because this having been the first project of its type in the country we didn’t have all the details provided to us and so we had to be highly adaptable and open to new opportunities. Our main goal was to give away the wigs free of charge to the children in need. We have estimated the total budget at around 20.000 euros.
After a long search we tracked down the only person who is manually manufacturing wigs in Romania and we had an agreement for a 50% off for every wig we order. Still, the cost of one wig varies from 90 to 300 euros each. The wigs are manufactured strand by strand, from up to 4 ponytails and it takes around a week to have one wig done properly.
In December 2015 we decided it was high time to end ponytail donations so we could focus on the fundraising part. Our main fundraising event was presenting the project at the Donor’s Circle, a crowdfunding event organized by the Community Foundation of Iasi. We had alongside us the members of the TROC team, a Non-Governmental Organization from Iasi.
We brought together sponsors and supporters and we have received around 1500 euros in donations. Other fundraising events included a theatre play, several parties, an independently organized Christmas fair after which all the money collected were donated to our cause.
To date we have already managed to make and give out 96 wigs to children in need all over Romania. The distribution of the wigs has been made with the help of the Little People Association, an NGO that offers support to children suffering of cancer. We chose this organization in particular because we wanted to give away the wigs impartially and without any involvement of the “DPC-Donate hair for children” team’s members.

Plans for evaluation:

Our country doesn’t have any database regarding the number of children with cancer and we would like to bring our contribution here. Though, the statistics published by the Non-Governmental Organizations show that 6 children in Romania are being diagnosed with cancer every week. The parents usually care solely for the treatment so the child could get better but the child’s appearance and mental health are usually overlooked. Thus we were determined to take action and make difference, however small, by collecting the hair, raising the money and giving away the wigs free of charge.
We started by promoting the project all over Romania. The next step was collecting the hair donations. In addition we have made an agreement so we could manufacture the wigs in the country. In the last and current part we are focusing on fundraising so we could be able to donate the wigs to all the children in need.
The number of wigs that are being given away are a hard indicator of the beneficiaries of our project and we will do everything that we can to keep increasing it. Also, another important indicator that we will keep monitorising is the number of volunteers who donate their hair in order to help the little children who suffer from cancer. This will show not only the interest people are showing towards our project, but also the impact “DPC-Donate hair for children” has in the entire country.