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Tuesday 21 January 2020
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Cut your hair for a cause: helping cancer patients

Cyan Yee is  founder of Precious Roots Foundation, a non-profit hair-donation foundation.
Cyan Yee is founder of Precious Roots Foundation, a non-profit hair-donation foundation.

The Precious Roots Foundation will celebrate its tenth anniversary with a "hair for wigs" fundraising tea party on September 14.

Precious Roots is a non-profit hair-donation foundation, where hair is collected from donors and shipped to Canada and the United States, where it is made into wigs, then donated to cancer patients.

Its founder Cyan Yee said the group is catering for a maximum of 100 people.

“As a non-profit foundation, we are hoping to spread awareness and educate patrons on what we do, as well as raise $4,000. We are hoping to collect three ponytails at the event, from hair that will actually be cut on the day at a hair-donation demonstration.” she said.

She learned of the hair donation idea at secondary school, from a friend who was cutting her hair to donate. Yee realisied her own hair was long enough to do it as well, so she gave her hair to the cause.

“My first cut was at 17 years, and I’m now on to my fourth cut.”

Yee will be one of those who will have her hair cut at the fundraiser.

She said other people who want to donate their hair must meet the minimal requirement of ten-inch-long hair. It can’t be dyed, although vegetable and henna dyes will be accepted, but no other chemical treatments are permitted. Relaxed and permed hair is not accepted. Layered hair is fine, as is hair of any texture.

It must be completely clean and dry before being cut. Once it is shampooed and conditioned, aftercare products may not be be put in it, including oils, foams, sprays and gels.

While being cut, hair must be put in a ponytail or braided. It's measured from just above the ponytail to the end of the hair.

Donors’ hair is then shipped to foundations in the United States – Wigs for Kids and the Pink Heart Fund – to be turned into wigs.

“Unfortunately the wigs stay in the States until I can find a way to bring them back to Trinidad,” said Yee. “Although we have local wigmakers in Trinidad, there is a part of the wigmaking process called wefting where they individually glue the strands of hair together, which is what they will use to weave the wigs together. But we don’t have a wefter in Trinidad.”

Yee said she got close to the Cancer Society after she lost her father and an aunt to cancer. Then, with the encouragement of the late Ann Paula Bibby of the Cancer Society, she started collecting hair and shipping it to the US.

But the department at the Cancer Society that assisted her has been closed for the last couple of years, and she has been doing it all on her own. So Yee said the fundraiser is also about reaching out and spreading awareness of her foundation and to let people know what she is doing.

She is also hoping to get more volunteers to help out with research to see if they could find a way to bring the hair back home.

Asked why the hair couldn’t be brought back to TT, Yee said: “We were never given a reason, we were just told when they collect the ponytails they go to their cancer patients up there. It is unfortunate, but we hope one day, sooner, rather than later we could bring it back in Trinidad.”

Yee is also looking for other volunteers because she has been doing it all on her own.

“If I get extra hands on board, we could probably get the hair to come home faster.”

The fundraiser takes place from 2-6 pm at the Waterville Estate in Santa Cruz.

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