Just before I set off on our big railway adventure, I donated my hair and raised USD$1,000 by shaving my head. My hair went to a charity organisation that makes wigs for girls that suffer hair loss because of a medical condition, like cancer.
The proceeds from shaving my head went to Women’s Resource Center (WRC) in Siem Reap, Cambodia. WRC run vital, free education programs for local Cambodian women and girls, to empower them to make informed decisions, including about their bodies and their health.
I volunteered at the grassroots NGO for 12 months back in 2015. I saw first-hand the difference they make to their community – because healthy, empowered women make better contributions to society as a whole.
I didn’t just raise money for their programs though – I also wanted to continue my support of the ladies that run the center. I am so inspired by them – in fact, despite the odd language or culture barrier, they managed to change my life. They let me into their hearts and helped me to grow into a better person.
So, while we were in Siem Reap at the start of our railway adventure, I personally delivered the proceeds I had raised to this fabulous team. There was a lot of anticipation leading up to my visit and I was overwhelmed by the love shown to me upon my return.
I was welcomed with balloons and a big, colourful, handmade sign saying, “Welcome to Julia”. There were lots of hugs all round and their bubbly energy was so infectious that soon we were all laughing at little jokes and shared memories.
There were also a few giggles about my new hair-style. I was told not to worry – that I still looked beautiful without hair. In fact, I was told, “Oh, Julia. You are beautiful and fat now”, in the typical Cambodian loving way. In other words, living in Australia had given me good health. One can only laugh at their candidness and sincerity.
Visiting the Center and seeing my friends was a great way to start our journey. I’m sure we’ll be back to visit again soon.
Note: travelling through Southeast Asia with a shaved head was an interesting experience. I had many strange glares and glances, a few pointed fingers and head turns. Some women, particularly older widows, shave their head when they become a monk, but for most cases, long hair is a symbol of beauty, youth and femininity. At one point, someone even said I looked like a man while my partner (who has long hair) looked like a woman…
If you would like to help empower women in Cambodia to make informed decisions about their lives, I encourage you to donate to Women’s Resource Center.
Photo: Us with the team at Women’s Resource Center in Siem Reap, Cambodia.