(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) After spending one year growing their hair, 10 male students and one teacher from Gems Modern Academy chopped their locks off for charity on Sunday morning.
In front of hundreds of students at their school, the boys - along with the male teacher - went two by two to the hairdressers chair and bid adieu to their flowing manes. While it was just hair they were saying goodbye to, for the cancer patients set to receive the soon-to-be-made wigs, it will be a boon.
Donating the proceeds to Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP), the initiative started one year ago when 17-year-old Piush Singh listened to the story of a cancer survivor. "After hearing that student's mum speak about her battle with the disease, I felt very emotional. Initially, it was just me who planned to go bald. I said I'd do it if my grade raised Dh1,000 for cancer patients," Singh told Khaleej Times, moments before getting his hair cut.
But after approaching his principal, Nargis Khambatta, with the 'Grow for Pink' idea, she encouraged him to go further. "After that discussion, I got my friends involved too. Thirty-two boys in total made the commitment to grow their hair, so it was a real team effort."
Asked whether he was excited to get the chop on Sunday, Piush said it was a "bitter sweet" moment. "When we started this process a year ago, we were very excited about raising awareness of a disease, but also have our very own man buns. But after about three months, it became a bit of a pain. The heat didn't help either," he laughs.
Despite the noble cause behind the effort, around 20 boys dropped out of the initiative for different reasons, but Singh said that just pushed the remaining donors to make the final hurdle. "Although we struggled at some points along the road, we realised that it was nothing in comparison to what these cancer patients were facing. That pushed us to go on."
Fellow student Parikshet Bhati said he decided to get on board because of his encounter with the disease. "My close friend's mum suffered from breast cancer and she remained unbelievably strong throughout the ordeal. Growing out my hair wasn't hard compared to that," he said.
Although convincing his parents to let him grow out his hair was a hard task, what he enjoyed about the process was the questions he was asked. "I have had so many people call me 'ma'am' and 'miss'. Lots of kids used to ask me if I was a girl because of my hair. But I soon realised that those funny questions were a great opportunity to talk to them about the importance of early detection."
As the only teacher to take part in the initiative, Ritesh Dhanak, supervisor of digital learning at the school, said the entire journey has been so important. "After I heard what the boys wanted to do, I thought the staff needed to show solidarity with the students, so I joined them.
"They have now started a process among the boys at our school. We already have male students saying 'let's do it this year'. They have opened up a dialogue and that is the first step to beating cancer together."
Kelly Clarke Originally from the UK, Kelly Clarke joined Khaleej Times in November 2012. She has a keen interest in humanitarian issues and took over as the dedicated Education Reporter in August 2016. In her spare time she loves to travel off the beaten track, and often write about her quirky experiences of pastures new. Kelly received her BA Honours in Journalism from Middlesex University, UK in 2008. Before joining Khaleej Times she worked as a Supervising Editor for three Healthcare titles in London. @KellyAnn_Clarke
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