Friday, July 17

Celebrating the Difference One Individual Makes! - Alicia Altorfer-Ong

As the milestone of 365 days of Gratitude approaches, I've been thinking about how I want my next year of practice to look.  Psychology suggests that establishing a new practice takes 21 days but experience has shown that in all things, becoming rooted in that practice takes much longer.  At nearly a year, I believe I am firmly rooted in daily gratitude and I would like to focus on one of the other practices we have added as a result of increased gratitude - Service.  

As part of this focus on Service, and as part of my commitment to Action For Happiness to promote happiness in the world, I will be featuring individuals who demonstrate that a single individual can make a difference in the world, doing what they can, where they can, with what they have.

Hair for Hope / Children's Cancer Foundation 

An Interview with Alicia Altorfer-Ong

I first met Alicia in grad school in London.  She is one of the most intelligent and articulate people I know.  Over more than a decade, we have met on 3 continents and maintained our friendship via email, Facebook and Skype.  I am in awe of how she managed to complete her PhD whilst moving countries (twice!), getting married and having two children.  She is a woman who is up to a challenge.

What has always struck me about Alicia is how she engages with people.  I don't know anyone with more friends and colleagues than she has, or anyone with a more active and engaged community life.  She moves in any circle with charm and grace and demonstrates a commitment to act on her values.  Alicia has always been one to promote the best efforts of those in her international community.  And when I say she promotes them - she not only talks up new businesses and causes, she always is the first to patronise a businesses and put her energy behind a good cause.

She is humble and would blush at this introduction, but that, my friends is also part of her charm.  I don't think she really believes that what she does is exceptional and her belief that we can all make a difference, big or small, has been one of my inspirations for the past decade.

Tell us a little about yourself for our readers?

I have a seven year old daughter, Anne, and five year old son, Leo. I'm Singaporean and my husband, Stefan, is Swiss. I am a historical researcher, writer, corporate trainer, voice artiste and am pleased to say that there is a new project in the works.

Photo by: Suasti Lye

What is the latest charity project in which you are involved?

Hair for Hope is a campaign by the not-for-profit Children's Cancer Foundation in Singapore. Those who've volunteered to participate will have our heads shaved at the end of July as an act of solidarity with children who have cancer. The funds raised through Hair for Hope will go towards the children and their families.


About Children's Cancer Foundation's iconic fundraiser Hair for Hope:

Hair for Hope began in 2003 to raise funds for the work of CCF.  Children's Cancer Foundation supports children with cancer and the families of these children.  There are over 100 different childhood cancers that can occur anywhere in the body.  

In 2003, Hair for Hope began with 9 volunteers raising $2,000.  Last year, the fundraiser had grown dramatically, grossing $3.29 million in donations with 6,656 volunteers . Of the funds raised, only 5.4% went towards event expenses, with the remainder funding FREE critical programmes/services for children with cancer and their families.  Services include Casework Management, Counselling and the provision of one-stop Family Support Centres in local hospitals. 

CCF considers volunteer shavees like Alicia to be Ambassadors, raising awareness of childhood cancer through their families, friends, colleagues and communities.   More about CCF and their work can be found at


Why does this particular cause appeal to you?

There are many important and appealing causes that would benefit from our support. The Children's Cancer Foundation is but one of them and is the charity that I've chosen to support this year.

I am drawn to the idea of showing solidarity with children suffering from cancer and my ultimate aim is to raise funds and rally support for the CCF and to be a more compassionate person.

You're a very compassionate person!  I understand that you will be shaving your head on 26 July to raise funds for Hair for Hope this year.  What is your greatest fear about shaving your head?

Nearly all my personal fears have to do with vanity. What if I have a flat/cone head? Should I powder my scalp too? What if my skin breaks out and I have nothing to hide behind? How long will my hair take to grow to a decent length? How long before I can colour my roots again? Will people take me less seriously when I'm bald? Will they laugh, especially when I'm out with Stefan, who is also bald? Will I get a lot of unwanted stares when I'm out? How will my kids feel?

Despite the little doubts that have crossed my mind, I don't think that shaving my head is all that drastic. My mother begs to differ, of course! She's still in a mild state of shock about this. I'm sure I will appreciate my hair and health even more after the deed is done. My hair will grow back and that comforts me. But someone who has cancer may not have that certainty. Having hair (or not) might be less of an issue when there are more serious health concerns.
When I first told my kids about Hair for Hope, Anne was rather troubled. "But Mummy, I don't want to be bald!" I explained that I was going to shave my head and that I wasn't asking her to shave hers. I think they understand my reasons for doing this, but they'll still be shocked on 26 July.

I'll still be me! I will continue to fulfill my respective roles, just without hair.

What would you say to those who would like to be of service but who are afraid that their small efforts don't add up to much or who are afraid to take such bold moves?

Each of us can help in our own way! 
My husband, Stefan, has told his colleagues about this and many of them have been extremely generous even though they don't know me. My mother is telling her pioneer generation friends, who've been very supportive too. She helps them navigate the online donation process. So many people have chipped in and shared words of encouragement. You are writing about this campaign -- thank you! 

Thank YOU for being the first to participate in this new feature on my blog.  And I am sure that Children with Cancer would want to thank you personally as well.  

If our readers would like to, how can they support you? 

Donations would be gratefully received at:
 The final day for pledges is 31 August, 2015


Good Luck, Alicia and thank you for your inspiring act!  We will be cheering you on 26 July, 2015 as you make your Bald Statement.

Photos courtesy of Alicia Altorfer Ong and Tania D Campbell.  
HfH icon and pledge page courtesy of Hair for Hope, Children's Cancer Foundation, Singapore

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