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Hair we go

Video: Paul Spiteri Lucas

Janet Barthet, 21, stiffened her lips and shut her eyes tightly to keep tears at bay as she put herself in the shoes of all those who experience extensive hair loss due to cancer treatment.

Her message was simple: do not throw away hair that young cancer victims could need for wigs. And if you are going through chemotherapy, be brave, because there's nothing shameful about a bald head.

"It's different. But it's not the end of the world. There's nothing abnormal about it, it's just living without hair," she said, after her aunt plaited and then shaved off all her long brown hair yesterday in front of the cameras.

Her 12-inch ponytail will now be shipped to the well-known US charity, Locks of Love, which specialises in creating wigs for underprivileged American children. But Ms Barthet's dream is to set up a similar organisation in Malta.

"It's difficult because the wigs are very expensive to make. I tried to set up something similar here, but it didn't work out. Hopefully, one day, I'll manage," she said.

This is the third time Ms Barthet has cut her hair for Locks of Love, but it was the first time she went all the way.

Even though she believed fully in the cause, she admitted she was dreading the experience and worried that she would not have the guts to go through with it.

She was inspired by friends who lost their own hair due to chemotherapy, but Ms Barthet had other friends who thought she was mad and even tried to talk her out of her noble initiative.

When the deed was done, she looked in the mirror afraid of what to expect, while family members egged her on and persuaded her that the new look actually brought out her facial features.

"It's worth it when you know it could help put a smile on a child's face, even if it's their last few months of life," she said, still getting used to her freshly-shaven head. She hopes she will inspire other young people to make sacrifices for charity and, more importantly, to save their hair for people who need it.

"You don't have to shave off all your hair. And you don't need to have very long hair either."

In fact, Locks of Love takes all the hair it can get, and what it doesn't use, it sells to wig-making companies to raise the funds needed to get its wigs produced.

For more information visit www.locksoflove.org.

Meanwhile, about 50 local men have this month been growing moustaches in aid of charity, inspired by a world-wide fundraising movement called Movember, which is said to have begun in Australia a decade ago.

"I heard about it from an Australian friend and thought it'd be a fun thing to do in Malta, but I never expected the event to get so big," said organiser Daniel McKean, 25, who has struggled to grow a prominent moustache but says that stroking his facial hair is therapeutic.

The men, who call themselves the Moalition of the Willing, are raising money for the Equal Partners Foundation (EPF) - a non-profit organisation which provides support programmes to people with disabilities or learning difficulties. Movember participants worldwide usually raise money and awareness for men's health charities, but organisers could not find any in Malta.

To raise funds, the group not only have to experience the joys of life with a moustache, they are also holding weekly fundraising events and raffles to raise money.

Asked about life with a moustache, Moalition member Alex Carachi, 37, said: "People say that I now resemble an American porn star, but it's for a good cause so I don't mind."

The final fundraising event will be an 'End of Tache Bash' on Friday at Mojito bar in Sliema, after which participants are free to shave off their moustaches. The money raised will go towards the Stepping Out Programme, which helps teenagers and young adults with intellectual disabilities to live autonomously.

To donate to EPF's Movember, visit www.simplygiving.org.mt/charity-organisation, or SMS 5061 8063 to give €4.66 or 5061 9207 to give €11.65.

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