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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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Growing and cutting hair for a cause

Oct. 11, 2017

Young people in Japan are going under the scissors for a worthy cause. They are helping provide wigs for children and teenagers who have lost their hair because of illness or injury. The hair donation movement is picking up steam across the country as the issue attracts the attention of more young people.

18-year-old Rena Shimabukuro underwent surgery for a brain tumor five years ago. The side effects of her treatment have been hard on her.

"I was feeling sad about having so little hair," she said.

Enter an NPO that helps young people like Rena.

"I wasn't able to tie my hair or curl it," she says. "Now, I want to arrange my hair in all kinds of ways."

The NPO makes wigs with hair donated from across Japan. The group used to get most of its hair from adults. But recently that's beginning to change. Nearly 40 percent of donors are younger than 20.

"I expect that if more young people get involved in this activity it will make society a better place to live for young people suffering from hair loss," says Kiichi Watanabe, the head of Japan Hair Donation & Charity.

Two years ago, a famous Japanese actress donated her hair. She used social media to tell people about the issue. This prompted many young women and teenagers to take an interest in doing the same.

To let more people know about the program, the NPO held an event last July. Around 100 people came, but a lot more wanted to take part.

10-year-old Yuma Sasaki has been letting his hair grow long since February.

What triggered his interest was an article he happened to see in a newspaper. It was about a boy just two years older than him. The boy had already donated his hair on two occasions.

"I thought, right away, that I wanted to do this," he says. "I was happy to find that the boy also wanted to bring happiness to people who have lost their hair."

Yuma used to keep his hair short. For him, growing it long is no easy task.

"I sweat a lot, and I get heat rash on the back of my neck," he says.

Hair needs to be at least 31 centimeters long before it can be donated. Yuma is determined to keep growing his hair for the next two years so it can reach that length.

"I was worried, because he sweats a lot," says he mother. "I realized he was serious after seeing him get through the summer."

Those who have already donated are trying to get others involved. Maria Iyano created a hair donating club at her high school. Maria is no stranger to loss.

"I saw first-hand my grandfather suffering from cancer," she recalls. "So I thought it would be great if I could help children with cancer by donating my hair."

The club has grown from 2 members to about 40 in less than a year.

"It won't be easy to do this alone, as it requires a long time and constant effort to grow your hair," says Iyano. "But I think joining hands with other people and achieving one goal is a wonderful thing to do."

Maria writes about the club's activities on Twitter. She has over 500 followers.

One of the members is now ready to play her part. She has been growing her hair, with great care, for 3 years.

"I miss being able hold my hair in my hands," she says. "But, as this helps to make wigs for children, I would like to do it again."

Young people are reaching out to help others. This small movement is making a big impact, restoring dignity to the lives of many children.