In a league of their own for can­cer care

The Jewish Chronicle - - Community - BYJONATHANKALMUS

TWO YEARS ago, League of Jewish Women vol­un­teers pro­vid­ing con­fi­dence-boost­ing head­wear for women be­ing treated at Manch­ester’s Christie can­cer hospi­tal ran their ser­vice from card­board and plas­tic boxes on a ta­ble.

Now the Queen’s Award-win­ning Head­start scheme has its own pur­pose­built “hair­dress­ing” par­lour, of­fer­ing silk scarves, ban­danas, syn­thetic fringes and stylish hats to women pa­tients who are los­ing their hair. Chil­dren with can­cer can or­der ban­danas fea­tur­ing princess or foot­ball designs.

“Stock comes to the UK from Ameri- ca, Is­rael and Por­tu­gal,” ex­plained vol­un­teer or­gan­iser Ruth Wilkins, who per­suaded a Bolton hi­jab whole­saler and a New York stock­ist of head cov­er­ings for Ortho­dox women to pro­vide goods at whole­sale prices. “We also ask friends and fam­ily to bring things back for us when they travel abroad.”

NHS pa­tients can get a free syn­thetic wig, but many women pre­fer head cov­er­ings. Head­start re­ceives no fund­ing and clients have to pay for their items.

Cel­e­brat­ing its 20th an­niver­sary this year, Head­start opens five morn­ings a week and can call on more than 20 vol­un­teers, pre­dom­i­nantly league mem­bers. Ms Wilkins pointed out that the ser­vice could go full-time if 10 more vol­un­teers could give up two af­ter­noons a month.

“You’re giv­ing women the abil­ity to face their can­cer treat­ment,” stressed vol­un­teer Sharon Gru­ber.

More than 700 head cov­er­ings are of­fered at the styling par­lour, a for­mer stock­room trans­formed as part of a £35 mil­lion re­vamp at the south Manch­ester hospi­tal.

Elaine Ben­nett, who will be un­der­go­ing chemo­ther­apy and ra­dio­ther­apy, praised the ser­vice as “smash­ing. I’m re­ally happy with what I’ve pur­chased to­day. A woman’s hair is her crown­ing glory and you want to feel you can go out and look all right. Get­ting a head cov­er­ing makes it eas­ier to cope with.”

At times, queues ex­tend be­yond the door. In­deed, so pop­u­lar has Head­start proved that vol­un­teers have given train­ing ses­sions at Traf­ford Gen­eral Hospi­tal, an Old­ham hospice and Leeds Gen­eral In­fir­mary, which are all look­ing to start sim­i­lar ser­vices.

H e a d s t a r t now has a brand- ed logo, de­signed by a pa­tient it helped. It hopes to soon give pa­tients their head­wear in bou­tique-style bags, of­fer­ing a more glam­orous feel. “We only have the most ba­sic of bags at the mo­ment be­cause we can’t af­ford any

thing else,” Ms Wilkins said.

PHOTO: JONATHAN KALMUS

Sharon Gru­ber styles for pa­tient Elaine Ben­nett

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