We have all heard about blood and organ donations. But donate hair? Yep, whether you have heard about it or not, you can donate your hair right here in Nepal.
Earlier, cut hair that accumulated in salons and parlors in Kathmandu were disposed off as waste. This was until Koshish Nepal, an NGO, joined hands with Mayas Beauty Parlor to collect hair from willing donors and turn them into wigs for those who have lost hair for medical various reasons. “Koshish Nepal makes wigs for cancer patients or those suffering from hair loss for other medical reasons,” says Sujina Silpakar, the NGO’s president. The organization, established a year and half ago, is first-of-its-kind.
Lalitpur’s Manisha Dulal, 26 had donated her hair in December 2019 before going to Australia. “The concept was still very new back then. It was by pure chance that I found about Koshish online and decided to donate my hair.”
Another donor Anjita Pathak, 25, from Chitwan also donated her hair for the first time in August 2019. “I was wanted to donate but was struggling to find the right channel before a friend suggested Koshish Nepal,” she says, adding that she plans to donate again.
Namrata Pradhan, 25, also from Chitwan, has a similar story. She also donated her hair to Koshish Nepal through Mayas Beauty Parlor a year ago. “I have witnessed hair loss in cancer patients many times. I thought the least I could do for them is give them my hair,” she says.
Mayas Beauty Parlor and Koshish Nepal had also co-organized a hair donation campaign in 2019. “As far as I know, we’re the first and only salon facilitating hair donation in Nepal,” says Gita Giri of Mayas Beauty Parlor. According to Giri, Koshish Nepal has a team of doctors and nurses who oversee the health of potential hair recipients and determine if they are ready for the wigs.
Giri says Nepali women from as far afield as the US and Australia have been in contact, expressing their interest in hair donation. “The response has been overwhelming. Now even men can donate their hair,” she adds. The donors also get certificates.
“It’s a win-win: We do not charge for hair-cut and the needy patients get hair for free,” Giri says.
It’s not an easy process though. Hair from around 15-20 donors is needed just to make a single wig. Altogether, it takes 3-4 months to prepare. Six or seven people had been donating their hair on each event before the Covid-19 outbreak put a stop to it.
As the concept of hair donation is still new, people have many misconceptions about the process, Giri explains. Most people do not know about it and even when someone wants to donate, they are skeptical about whether their donation will reach the intended beneficiary.
“I initially had my doubts, but then Koshish Nepal was a credible organization. They even gave me a certificate,” Pathak, the donor, adds. Other donors also express their satisfaction and laud the transparency in the process.
To maintain such transparency, videos and photos of the donated hair are regularly posted on social media and the donors are informed. Lack of funding is the main crutch for the charity work. “There is a high demand of hair from cancer patients but with our limited funding and resources, we’re struggling to meet the demand,” she says.