They’re Hair to Help: Chop off your locks to make someone smile

PYF’s drive has been largely successful as they are the sole free-of-charge wig providers in Pakistan. PHOTO: COURTESY PYF

PYF’s drive has been largely successful as they are the sole free-of-charge wig providers in Pakistan. PHOTO: COURTESY PYF

KARACHI: Hair to Help is giving people a chance to donate their hair for a good cause. An initiative of the Pakistan Youth Forum (PYF), the hair donation drive will be organised today (Saturday) at DotZero, Dilkusha Mall on Tariq Road between 11am and 4pm.

The idea behind the drive is to provide free-of-charge hair extensions to underprivileged patients suffering from hair loss due to chemotherapy.

“There is no other project in Pakistan to help cancer patients get wigs,” said PYF founder Syed Fahad Ali. He explained that wigs made of original hair are available in the market but cost between Rs15,000 and Rs20,000 per hairpiece. Synthetic wigs are cheaper and cost between Rs300 and Rs1,500 but can cause infections and allergic reactions in cancer patients.

“Synthetic wigs also heat up when patients wear them and go out in the sun, which affects their skin,” said Ali. The wigs which Hair to Help is providing are made of cotton fiber and original hair. The wigs are also easily washable.

Each wig costs the group Rs3,000, regardless of size. “The reason why the wigs costs us so much is that no one in Pakistan makes wigs, so we have found a vendor in China from where we get wigs made to order,” he added.

The group previously tried to order wigs from Chennai, India, but the consignment was stopped at Customs and never made its way to Pakistan.

In 2012, Ali started PYF and for two years he worked to help cancer patients, until in 2014 when the 29-year-old was joined by six like-minded people.

“In 2014, I organised a hair donation drive where I found some volunteers who were willing to continue with the mission and vision,” he said. They do fund raising events to collect money to meet the cost of buying the wigs and go to different places to spread awareness among people for hair donation.

Unhappy campers

While many people help PYF in furthering its cause, the group also faces threats from detractors who call their mission ‘un-Islamic’.

“We’ve gotten a lot of calls saying that the use of wigs and changing ones natural look is forbidden and we are promoting ‘wig culture’,” shared Ali, clarifying that he obtained a fatwa on the issue, stating that in case of ailments it is allowed to change ones appearance and his team is specifically working for cancer patients who lose their hair after chemotherapy.

The drive is focusing on patients at Aga Khan Univesity Hospital and Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital but they also take individual orders free-of-charge. So far, with the help of fund raising and individual donors, Hair to Help has donated 75 wigs, which were mainly given to residents of Lahore and Islamabad.

“We do not just take orders and make wigs, we check patient history and financial status and make sure they are needy enough,” said Ali, adding that they also check whether the patient has allergies or asthma.

The process

After collecting the hair, parcels of around eight kilogrammes are packed and sent to the vendor where they transform it into hair extensions. The shipment from China takes two weeks if delivered via DHL or 45 days if sent via China Post. “We usually use China Post, as it’s more economical,” he added. Each wig contains around 500 grams of hair or around six ponytails worth, explained Ali. PYF also stores different types of hair separately; different hair textures cannot be used in the same wig, which is why we keep straight, curly, silky and rough hair types separately, he said.  The cash donations collected during the process are used for the making of wigs, treatment of genuine cases and education of needy children at Aghaaz School, Karachi.

How to donate

PYF has some rules for prospective hair donors:

  1. The hair must be at least 12 inches long
  2. The hair cannot be dyed or bleached
  3. The donor cannot donate lice-infested hair
  4. The hair must be cut off in a ponytail for storage purposes

Donors can also have their hair cut free-of-charge at Depilex Bahadurabad filling in a form on PYF’s website and registering themselves.

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