UAE: Grade 5 cancer survivor donates hair to mark treatment anniversary, inspires classmates

Aurelia grew her hair as long as possible before having approximately 33cm cut off while raising sponsorship money for the act


Nasreen Abdulla

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Aurelia Reeves (R) with her friends. Photo: Supplied
Aurelia Reeves (R) with her friends. Photo: Supplied

Published: Mon 26 Feb 2024, 3:12 PM

Last updated: Mon 26 Feb 2024, 11:14 PM

A young cancer survivor marked the anniversary of her stem cell treatment by donating her hair. Aurelia Reeves, a Grade 5 pupil at the Swiss International School Dubai (SISD), chopped off her tresses and contributed them to Little Princess Trust, an organisation that helps young people with cancer.

Now sporting a fashionable bob, Aurelia grew her hair as long as possible before having approximately 33 cm cut off while raising sponsorship money for the act. She knew that long hair wigs were in demand and wanted to ensure she could help someone who needed it.

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However, the 11-year-old’s biggest dream is to set up a stem cell database in the UAE. “A lot of people don’t survive because they are unable to find donors in time,” she said, speaking to Khaleej Times. “Since the UAE is such a multicultural, international country, my dream is to set up a stem cell database here so that it can help lots and lots of people.”

Aurelia, who was diagnosed with Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) when she was just four months old, survived, but part of her treatment involved receiving 50 litres of blood in a stem cell donor treatment.

Not the first time

This is not the first time that Aurelia has donated her hair. She previously shaved her head, along with her teacher, in 2022, donating funds to the wig charity.

Due to her work raising awareness of childhood diseases and their effects on children, three of her classmates, Sofija, Alena and Emma, have also been inspired to grow and donate their hair since Aurelia’s first donation two years ago.

“A lot of my friends have donated their hair,” she said. “It is starting to be a trend. I am happy that a lot of people are doing it. I want to inspire other people.”

Sofia and Alena underwent a charity haircut last year, while Emma had her locks trimmed for children’s wigs on the same day as Aurelia.

Aurelia’s school friends, family and the wider community have donated Dh11,000, which is being shared with the local medical education and research charity Al Jalila Foundation. Her hair is going to Little Princess Trust, a UK-headquartered charity that provides real hair wigs, free of charge, to children and young people who have lost their hair through cancer. The organisation has provided over 15,000 wigs and invested millions of dirhams in childhood cancer research.

Head of Primary at SISD, Shona Gastaldi, said Aurelia’s story was an inspiration for other students. “She is a credit to our school, and her passion for charitable causes - including animal welfare and environmental issues - is infectious,” she said. “The fact that her enthusiasm for the cause has now had a tangible impact on her classmates and the school is precisely the attitude that deserves recognition and that we wish to inculcate across the school. The support, camaraderie and understanding are certainly qualities to be celebrated.”


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