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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 9 May 2015
12 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 9 MAY 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Donate Hair Two young women joined forces to create a hair donation agency in Greece for children suffering from cancer and alopecia NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU What do a culinary student, a journalist, three hairdressers, an accountant, a graphic designer, a freelancer and a student of administration have in common? Their passion and vision to create a hair donation agency in Greece, for children suffering from cancer and alopecia. "The association's aim is to raise public awareness on hair donation and then create wigs to give away as many smiles possible to children who need to be happy," the Donate Hair - Donate Love team tells Neos Kosmos. "Smiling affects the psychology and we all know how positive emotions can help 'shield' our health. "Driven by optimism and the children's happy faces, we decided to add our own tiny contribution to the struggle waged by all these people." Donate Hair - Donate Love appeared about six months ago as an association, however, it existed for a couple of years in the form of information campaigns. The coordinator of the campaign, Melina- Lyudmila Konstantinides, 24, decided to cut and donate her hair to the 'Wigs for Kids' hair donation program almost two years ago. The program has been active in Australia since 2011 as part of the AAAF (Australia Alopecia Areata Foundation) and has a very strong presence in the Unites States as well. As a columnist, she wrote two articles about the procedure and requirements for hair donation. At the same time she created an open group on Facebook, Hair Donation - You Too Can Help, to inform the Greek online community. The response was incredible as the group garnered above 19,500 members at the time. "We instantly realised the need of a donation organisation in Greece," says journalist Elena Kousis, responsible for communication and social media at Donate Hair - Donate Love. "Therefore, we have come to create the first hair-free club for children with cancer and alopecia that provides them with free wigs." Elena overheard a woman suffering from cancer complain about having no money to buy a good wig. She did some research, only to find out there were many cancer patients in the community who were unable to afford non-synthetic wigs. "I desperately wanted to do something about all these women, so I decided to chop my hair and give it to a hairdresser who was making wigs for cancer patients. “Unfortunately, the amount of hair I had was not enough to build one wig. I kept the plait, and tried growing it again, determined to present the hairdresser with enough hair for a whole wig. "Six months ago (three years later), I cut my hair for the second time and whilst looking for a place that could make a wig, a friend informed me there was another girl doing the exact same thing - Melina.” Together, Melina and Elena founded the first hair donation agency in Greece where everyone can do their own bit to bring back the smile on the faces of people suffering from cancer. Professional hairdressing salons have even joined the cause, offering free stylish haircuts to the daring volunteers who come to give away their beautiful long locks. "Our donors are more than 400 this time. At our last event we cut the hair of over 100 people." she says. "The youngest is a four-year-old girl and we even have a 75-year-old member. "They are all equally happy to be able to help people struggling with cancer. Most have someone in their near environment who is also suffering or has suffered and are very motivated." Donate Hair - Donate Love are glad to be joined by many different people able to contribute in their own unique and productive way. Diversity is essential to the team members, whose unique personalities and professions have played a great role in overcoming the many bureaucratic and functional difficulties they have encountered. "We are all so different and creative, yet fired by the same passion to help cancer patients. Working together is magical," Elena stresses. "Everyone has a reason and a little story to tell us. The response and support of the world is really touching. "Siblings, friends, boys, girls, women, men and even entire families are eager to part with their long hair to help others," she adds. Melina Constantinides (chef), Theo Oikonomakis (Webmasters barbershop), Elena Kousi (journalist), Stathis Katopodis (administration student, web designer & founder of ravenet.gr), Stavros Pyrakis (freelance hairdresser), Sotiris Vasilas (Hair Art Studio salon owner), Martina Kormentza (Soneto salon owner), Nikos Hatzis (music producer at Radio Thessaloniki) and Eleftheria Berketi (accountant) are the people behind the Donate Hair - Donate Love movement. "Currently we are partnering with organisations and legally recognised unions, as well as with institutions that have to do with children and cancer. "Volunteers from all walks of life, regardless of age send us their hair and post photos online inviting their friends to do it!" As in any group fuelled by volunteer effort, Donate Hair has come across several difficulties. "Our main concern is to get the message across that the wigs will be donated only to people who cannot afford it. We do not try to cover state omissions or the lack of Melina-Lyudmila Konstantinides, founder. affordable natural wigs out there. dable natural wigs out ther "Our greatest reward is the smiles of the children who will receive the wigs. 'Where there is love, there is a way' is our motto." * Anyone who wants to offer their hair is welcome to join. Age and gender have nothing to do with it. There are, however, specific prerequisites for usable hair, as follows: - Hair needs to be over 20cm (over 30cm for Australia), there is no maximum length - Hair must be dry before posting - Even plaits that were cut years ago are usable as long as the hair was stored in a dry place - Only natural hair (even grey hair) is g accepted, without permanent hair dye - The hair mustn't have undergone chemical treatment like perming or straightening - The batch must be secured with rubber bands before it is placed in an envelope For more information visit donatehair. gr and the Hair Donation - You Too Can Help page on Facebook. For Australia, go to www.aaaf.org. au/get-involved/donate-hair Hair donations, regardless of gender, age and nationality. Young girls who had really long hair, were more than happy to go with long bobs. Elena Kousis, Donate Hair media manager.
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