Meera Sharma is the chairperson of the Rotaract Club of Women’s Christian College, Chennai.
Meera who is a young woman of 22, is running ‘Tangled’ an organisation that provides organic wigs to cancer patients especially women to boost up their self confidence.
Realizing that the real hair wigs were uncomfortable and quite expensive costing somewhere around Rs. 30,000 she took the initiative to change the lives of people. She started by donating her own hair for to the needy. Later she partnered with Raj hair International, Green Trends and others who could make the wigs at lower costs around Rs. 4,500. These wigs are distributed by Meera Sharma to the cancer patients for free!
Meera Sharma is born and brought up in Chennai, India.She finished her BBA in Women’s Christian College and now is now working for Standard Chartered GBS. The idea of making organic wigs for women fighting cancer has a small story behind this. In second year of her college it was mandatory for them to be part of some sort of service oriented clubs within college. So she chose Rotaract because knew the good things Rotaract had been doing since school and she was always interested in it. So Meera registered herself into it. Her seniors from the Rotaract club of WCC thought about this idea of making human hair wigs for cancer patients. She was part of it as a Project Secretary. This idea clicked her when she saw a youtube video on human hair wigs.
Meera Sharma soon figured out that it is a rare practice in India and most people didn’t know that such things do exist. So, she first started researching on it. She along with her team met a few doctors to understand what exactly it is. Why it’s rare, why it’s important and how is it beneficial to cancer patients. So after meeting the doctors they understood that during the course of chemotherapy, cancer patients lose a lot of hair from not just head but all over the body including eyebrows. They also got to know that these treatments really bring down the patients self esteem, especially women and kids. Some of them even avoid making a public appearance and kids avoid going to school. Some cancer is curable and some is life taking. But mental health and stability is most important to overcome that stage of life. And it was important to keep them confident and their self esteem high. So, finally they chose this project.
Intial days were difficult for Meera Sharma because they were just figuring out what and how to go with the project. A lot of research, meeting doctors, understanding the procedure and most importantly finding a wig maker as cost of human hair wigs were really high and we being college students could not afford investing huge money from their pockets. So theywere also looking for sponsors. More than that they were not sure on running this project because in south women treasure their hair, especially in Chennai where they were about to do the project. Question was will people come forward to donate their treasures for cancer patients. But what kept Meera and her team moving was their love for this project. They were a small team closely working for this. More than the initial days the challenge was when Meera Sharma decided to continue the project for the second time. When all the seniors had left, she was in the final year and was chosen to be the head of Tangled. New team, new people and ofcourse everyone knew what the project was about but none knew the hard work behind. The team was first hesitating to continue the project because it takes a lot of time and they had many projects to execute in the same year and Tangled involved a lot of money, which if used, could run 2-3 other projects. So it was tough and challenging.
The biggest hurdles were to find sponsers and a wig maker because collecting hair then became easy as the response was amazing. They started the project in college first where 250+gals came forward to donate their hair after which they extended the project all over Chennai where common people also had the opportunity to donate their hair. By the end of the process they had collected a lot of hair. It weighed around 53 kg, enough hair to make 150+ wigs. Challenge was collecting funds, making wigs and providing them to cancer patients. So they had Partnered with a well known Saloon Green Trends who helped them collect hair from all over Chennai in the first year and in the second year they again partnered with them and executed this project not only in Chennai but also in major cities of India which included Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, Kolkata and other cities. People could just walk in to any green trends saloon in the said cities and donate their hair which they later collected.
Meera Sharma and her team met George B Cherian, CEO of Raj Hair International who was very encouraging. He was a Rotarian so they were associated that way. He loved the project and played role of a mentor to them. He guided them on how to go with the project. They associated with his firm Raj Hair international for the best quality wigs. Quality really was important as they did not want to harm the patients and wanted to boost their confidence level. Raj Hair international were not only their wig makers but also one of their sponsors both the years. Green Trends were a major sponsor the second year.
Final stage of project was reaching patients. They associated with Adyar Cancer Institite to give away wigs to people who could not afford the wigs as the market price was too high. Doctors from cancer institute also helped them with understanding what the patients go through. So four organisations associated with them: Rotaract club of Women’s Christian college, Green Trends, Raj Hair international and Adyar Cancer Institute. In the second year they also had a Charity sponsor Cherian Foundation. They were kind enough to associate with them. The market price of these natural hair wigs ranges from 25,000 – 40,000 in the market. Meera Sharma and her team are giving away such wigs to Cancer Institite in Chennai Adyar. This institute is well known for treating underprivileged people.
The Cancer Institute chooses only those who cannot afford the wigs otherwise and provides them these organic wigs since they know their patients and their backgrounds better. Tangled is Meera’s dream project. It’s going on. They have about 200 wigs ready now which will soon be delieverd. While in college Meera’s faculty and the college had supported immensely to continue the project. They loved what she was doing. They were extremely happy about it and would allow her go on interviews or meetings during college hours. She always made sure that does not affect her studies. Her friends supported her. But continuing the same now while she is working is extremely difficult. Both her job and Tangled are equally important to her. But Meera is striking a balance between the two roles.
Talking about future plans Meera says things are are uncertain. But she wishes to always do something good which can help others. As of now, she wants to complete this year’s Tangled first and concentrate on her Job. Post college, she joined another Rotaract club to continue what she loves doing. She feels a sense of accomplishment the day the wigs reach the cancer patients. She has already deliverd about 170 wigs. She still has another 250 to be delivered. Hopefully very soon. There are many others projects that Meera is currently involved in. Not every project is big like Tangled, but every small project has its own worth and value.
Meera Sharma was awarded with the ‘Best emerging Rotaractor’ award from the District Rotaract Council.
The Rotary international district Conference recognised her for her bold Initiative and awarded her for the same. The best project award was also given to Meera’s Foundation Tangled in the Annual District Rotaract awards. Vijay Tv, in the South also recognised their Project with an award at the Vijay Sigaram thotha pengal awards. Raindrops a social organisation based in chennai also recognised the team Tangled for their initiative. Meera says “More than receiving awards. I think what made us happy was that our project reached a lot of people. Thanks to the media for that. Now many people are aware of it and who ever is in needs reaches out to us or the cancer institute for help”. Today, Tangled is working across India to provide free organic wigs to the underpriviledged cancer patients boosting their self confidence and giving them new lives through this initiative.