Famous stylist makes natural hair wigs for kids with cancer

For renowned hair stylist Marcelo Avatte, only one thing brings him more joy than cutting hair - and that's 'making' hair.

For several years, the Italian-Chilean has been spearheading a movement to make and donate natural hair wigs for children who suffer from cancer.

The idea for his project came in February 2006. He was watching his son Vittorio, aged four, undergo treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the cancer ward of the Luis Calvo Mackenna Hospital in Santiago.

Mr Avatte said that while he was there, he saw young girls undergoing chemotherapy who were losing their hair. The anguish they felt while fighting to recover moved him.

'I could see the pain, in particular of the girls who lost their hair, during treatment, how it affected their self-esteem and the depression they fell into,' he told Reuters.

'That was what motivated me to begin this project with my son,' he said.

To collect the real hair to make the wig, Mr Avatte went on TV and radio to urge women to donate their hair.

The natural hair wigs are handmade and cost about US$670 (S$872) each in Chile, putting them out of reach for many patients. Reuters reported that Mr Avatte has donated more than 300 wigs since 2009.

His biggest joy is seeing the smiles when the young cancer patients don the natural wigs for the first time, especially when they start combing through the new hair as if it were their own.

He noticed that their faces were magically transformed, and their natural femininity took over.

Their postures straightened as they walked, and they looked like different people from the downcast patients they once were.


'That was when I realised that the child's outlook on life and recovery were greater with the wig than if they continued to hide their head with scarves,' he said.

One patient, Isidora Serrano, 14, was all smiles as she walked out of the hospital with her new hair.

'I can feel the cool wind in my hair as I used to before. I feel so good,' she said.

Another patient, five-year-old Alexandra Munoz, who is recovering from surgery to remove a malignant brain tumour, turned her head from side to side, swishing her new locks across her face.

At least three donors are needed for Mr Avatte to make wigs worn by girls like Alexandra.

The hair that they donate needs to be at least 35cm long, not overly dry, have no split ends and must not be tangled.

This article was first published on Nov 21, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.

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