Before February 2006, Italian-Chilean hair stylist Marcelo Avatte would never have imagined that he would use his talents to create and donate natural hair wigs.
But that year, Avatte's son, 4-year-old Vittorio, began treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Avatte watched his formerly healthy son lose his hair and strength during the treatment process. The father also watched the frustrations and fears of the other children in the cancer ward of the Luis Calvo Mackenna Hospital, in Santiago, and he felt compelled to help them in some way.
"I could see the pain, in particular of the girls who lost their hair, how it affected their self-esteem," Avatte told Reuters. "That was what motivated me to begin this project with my son."
Since 2009, Avette has created and donated more than 300 wigs to girls undergoing chemotherapy. In Chile, a natural-hair wig can cost nearly $700 — far more than many families can afford to pay. And each distinct wig takes at least three donors to make, so Avatte trumpets his project on TV and radio, encouraging women to donate their hair to the worthwhile cause.
Avatte — whose son has since recovered and is a healthy 12-year-old boy — says the smiles that flood the faces of patients putting on their new wigs for the first time are reason enough to keep his passion project going. Below, images of a process with an incredibly positive impact.