Monday, August 31, 2015

New Plymouth woman shaves her head to raise funds for Burmese refugees

Robert Charles/Fairfax NZ

Kareen Hillenaar gets her head shaved by her boss Lou Smith on Sunday to raise money to travel to Thailand to work with Burmese refugees.
New Plymouth's Kareen Hillenaar had an unexpected advantage when she had her head shaved on Sunday.

The 29-year-old planned to cut off her shoulder length locks to raise money to travel to Thailand where she will work with refugees, however after receiving a gash to her head while surfing at Fitzroy on Friday the job was partially done so eight stitches could be put in.

"They are still pretty fresh," she said.

Hillenaar, who has a Masters in Art and Design, leaves for Thailand on Saturday where she will work with Burmese refugees for three months.

"I want to explore the craft traditions that they bring with them from Burma.

"As part of my post graduate work I was trying to find a way to work in fashion with an ethical approach."

Hillenaar started working with refugees while studying in Auckland and had travelled to India for a month.

"It is pretty effective to go to the places where the refugees are from," she said.

Hillenaar said deciding to shave her head was a last minute thing to raise money to pay the Burmese women she would be working with.

"I don't know it just seemed like a good idea at the time.

"I feel quite excited about it actually," Hillenaar said before the cutting began.

She had a nervous smile on her face as her boss Lou Smith got to work with the clippers.

"I've got 19 years experience as a hairdresser but I haven't done it for a while," Smith said.

A small crowd of family and friends gathered outside the Piccolo Morso Milkbar for the event.

Smith took extra care around Hillenaar's head wound and in a short time had shaved her head.

"Apparently it suits me," Hillenaar said as she checked out her new do it a shop window.

Her mother Carole said she was not concerned about her daughter heading overseas.

"She has done a lot of travelling and working with people over the years," she said.

"I think it is a great cause, I'm more than supportive."

Hillenaar said she had been overwhelmed by the support she had received for her trip, with someone donating $1000 last week.

Anybody wanting to make a donation towards Hillenaar's trip can do so at