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Locks of love: Bosnians weave wigs for children with cancer

China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-17 09:54
Hairdressers prepare the hair of young donors before snipping off some as part of the "My Hair Your Hair" campaign in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on May 25. [Photo/Agencies]

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina-Ajla Nizic did not know what cancer was when she was diagnosed with it at age 4.

"But I knew that I lost my hair," said the Bosnian leukemia survivor who is now 19 years old.

Now a medical student, Nizic is leading a campaign to give other sick children a luxury her parents could not afford: wigs.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of Europe's poorest countries, has no domestic wigmaking industry.

The nearest available source has been neighboring Croatia, where wigs cost up to 2,000 euros ($2,300)-more than four times the average monthly salary in the Balkan country.

"As trivial as it might seem at first while a person is battling such an aggressive disease, hair loss is often a huge psychological burden, particularly for girls, who do not dare to go out without hair," said Nizic, who now has long brown tresses.

Her campaign-"My Hair, Your Hair"-is encouraging Bosnians to donate their locks to a new wigmaking workshop that opened in Sarajevo in October.

There, volunteers are weaving wigs specifically for children who are undergoing chemotherapy or have lost their hair because of other health complications.

Hundreds of people-mainly women, as the hair must be at least 30 centimeters long-have flocked to hair-cutting events held at schools and shopping malls around the country. Others have cut their own hair and mailed it to the campaign.

On a recent afternoon at an elementary school in Sarajevo, several young pupils sat calmly as their hair was combed into sections and then snipped off.

"I don't want to be the only one smiling," said 13-year-old Suana Sehic, now sporting a bouncy bob. "I would like a smile to return to the face of all children."

The Sarajevo workshop uses donated real hair to avoid the expense of the materials needed to make synthetic wigs.

It takes at least two week-sand the hair of six people-to weave one wig, and a dozen volunteers have woven around 20 wigs since October. The pieces of donated hair must be as close in color as possible, said Fuad Halilovic, 22, who manages the workshop where the weavers work under bright lamps.

"We try to make it so the wig resembles the hairstyle the child had before losing their hair," he said.

"We measure their heads and look at photographs of how their hair looked before."

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