Last month, two brave Waipara students, Charlotte Warren and Elese Berthold, sacrificed their hair for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand’s Shave for a Cure campaign, raising almost $7000 and breaking down conventional beauty rules. By TEARAWAY Maverick KATE McILHONE.
20-year-olds Charlotte and Elese have been friends since the beginning of high school, even boarding together in their second year. They had wanted to help out the cause for years but it wasn’t until they were heading off to university and going their separate ways that they finally bite the bullet.
Charlotte first heard of Shave for a Cure through television advertisements that had the “ability to reduce the room to silence.” Upon seeing how big an impact cancer has on young people in this country, Charlotte decided she needed to help, by raising money for the campaign. “It’s something that I, as an everyday young Kiwi, can easily do to have a profound impact of someone.”
Once they had committed to Shave for a Cure, the girls turned to social media to rally support. They made a YouTube video which received over 1,000 views and spread their message through Facebook.
Although they were apprehensive at first, the girls were “overwhelmed with support both before and after the shave,” and neither regrets their decision for a second. “It was the first time I’ve done something completely selfless with no personal benefit,” says Charlotte. “You give so much more of yourself [than money] and that’s a really special thing to do.”
In a society where women in particular are so often judged solely on appearance, the girls were always wary of how they would be perceived by going against the norms of beauty. “From the outset, this was by far the biggest obstacle,” says Charlotte. “We knew walking down the street with people staring would be daunting. It was always going to be a test of character.”
Despite the overwhelming positive response, not everyone has been so supportive of the girls. After their Shave experience, Charlotte received a negative comment from a mother who said she would never have allowed her own daughter to do what they had done. “I’m not offended by these comments but rather look at them as proof of how impacted society is by how ‘a young girl should look’,” says Charlotte. She hopes that their gesture will make young boys and girls realise that “beauty is not always defined by expectations.”
The girls may have given up their hair, but what they gained was so much more significant. “I was… scared my confidence would diminish; however, I have found the complete opposite,” says Elese, “I truly feel far more confident without the hair.”
This was not Elese’s first foray into charity work. When visiting her father in Vanuatu as a teenager, she witnessed how little that society had. Upon arriving home, she gathered up old school supplies to take back to the schools in Vanuatu. She also worked as a World Vision leader while still at high school, raising money for those less fortunate than herself.
Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand supports the 10,000 New Zealanders who suffer from these diseases. The national charity organisation receives no government funding and subsists entirely through donations and fundraising. The charity’s biggest fundraiser is Shave for a Cure, which is run annually throughout the country. This year’s Shave for a Cure Week runs from March 17 to 23.
“My advice would be to just commit… put it all on the table,” says Charlotte. “Have fun with it in the way Elese and I have. It has been an unforgettable experience for me personally and for our friendship.”
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