Mirline Olisse, a 40-year-old cancer patient, wears one of Jawan's brightly-colored scarves. With her is head onocology nurse Yolande Nazaire. Photo by Amy Banham.

How do scarves play a role in cancer treatment? For dozens of cancer patients in Haiti, they provide a chance for dignity—and give hope and comfort when it’s needed most.

Partners In Health has increased the integration of cancer prevention and care across many of its sites, including training community health workers to test for cervical and breast cancer. In Haiti, women who have various types of cancer can undergo chemotherapy at Clinique Bon Sauveur in Cange.

Although vital to recovery, chemotherapy causes many women to lose their hair—an unusual and often uncomfortable side effect for women in Haitian society. While these women are physically healing, they often face additional stigma and pain during the process.

Thanks to two organizations from opposite sides of the world, beautiful head scarves are helping to mitigate that pain. An Afghanistan-based business called Jawan and the nonprofit organization Afghan Scholars Initiative (ASI) have donated 30 scarves to chemotherapy patients and will provide scarves to all women undergoing chemotherapy this year—expected to be about 100.

ASI founder Qiam Amiry helped bring together PIH and Jawan, which promotes fashion with a mission. Sales of their scarves support ASI, a program that brings high-performing Afghan students to study at top-level schools in the United States and India.

“When needs and opportunity meet, true partnership can happen,” Amiry said. “We have hope that 100 women will not only live to see tomorrow, but will walk again with pride.”

Jessie Stoop, an oncology nurse at Zanme Lasante in Cange, carried the initial 30 scarves to Haiti and immediately began distributing them to patients.

“The scarves are simply beautiful, and our hope is that they help our patients feel beautiful, too,” she said. “This partnership allows us to give our patients a simple, practical gift and also acknowledge and offer understanding that this is indeed a difficult treatment they are embarking on, but we are here to support them—physically and emotionally.”

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