Schoolgirl Eloise Roberts has been supporting CCF since she was four years old. Her latest idea, part of a school initiative, saw her cut off her long hair in a sponsored chop for CCF.
Like many 12-year-old girls, Eloise Roberts was very proud of her long hair, flowing down her back and streaked with natural blonde highlights from summers spent at the family home in France.
Which made her decision to cut it all off to raise funds for CCF - and support children with cancer at the same time - such a brave and special thing to do.
After the first attempt was delayed, she finally had the Big Chop on 6 March, losing 11 inches of her lovely long locks.
So far she’s raised more than £3,300 from generous family, friends and supporters, smashing her original £2,000 target, which will all go to CCF.
“I was absolutely blown away by all the kind and generous donations
While it was all in a good cause, Eloise admits to being a bit nervous before the cut but is thrilled with her new look - and the amazing response from well wishers and those who donated.
“I’m really, really happy,” says Eloise, sporting a new shaggy bob haircut.
“I really wanted to donate my hair and to raise money for the Cambodian Children’s Fund. It’s such a wonderful thing to do and you feel amazing after having done it.
“When I was four, we went to Phnom Penh to visit the Cambodian Children’s Fund, and since then every single year I’ve been donating to them and it’s just been part of my life.”
Donations were still coming in after the event, with the latest from an anonymous donor pledging $250 (around £180).
“I’m absolutely blown away by all your kind and generous donations,” Eloise told everyone who donated.
Eloise came up with the idea for a sponsor and haircut after being chosen by her school, Windlesham House School in the UK, to be this year’s ‘Spirit of Windlesham’, an honour given to a student who epitomizes the spirit of the school.
Part of having the title involves doing charity fundraising. Eloise picked her favourite charity, CCF, which she has been diligently supporting since she was just four years old after visiting Cambodia with her mum in 2013.
She set up a fundraising page on the JustGiving platform and set a date for the cutting day, originally 27 February, at the family home in south-west France, with a family friend, Annie, a professional hairdresser offering to wield the scissors.
One of Eloise’s friends was also there on the day to give moral support - and cut off a bit of hair.
“Honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, it was quite fun,” says Eloise. “And it was actually quite satisfying just listening to the snip, snip.”
The hair was first put into ponytails before each one was cut off and the remaining hair was styled, taking between five and six hours in total with effectively two wash, cut and blow drys.
Her hair has already been donated to the Little Princess Trust, a UK-based charity which provides real hair wigs to sick children and young people who lose their hair through cancer treatment.
I am so proud of my girl with her chic haircut
Annie, the hairdresser, kindly donated the fee she would have charged to Eloise’s CCF fundraising campaign. Eloise’s two big brothers, who live in England, have donated, and many of Eloise’s friends have been donating their pocket money or their parents have made a donation.
“I am incredibly grateful to my friends and family for all their support,” says Eloise, ‘and of course, to my wonderful school Windlesham House for giving me the Spirit of Windlesham Award and inspiring me to do this.”
It was mum Nicky who first heard about CCF while living for seven and a half years in Hong Kong, where her husband, Simon, works.
Nicky volunteered for a charity, Box of Hope, which provides educational gifts to underprivileged children in Hong Kong and Asia during Christmas, donated by Hong Kong school children and local organisations, of which CCF is a recipient.
In 2013, Nicky and Eloise (pictured together below at the time) visited CCF in Phnom Penh with another Box of Hope volunteer and her two daughters.
We spent two or three days there and it was fantastic,” says Nicky.
“We looked at everything - from the tiny kindergarten kids right through to the families who were getting rice. It was still quite simple and basic then, the new Academy [the Neeson Cripps Academy] hadn’t been built.
“We met Scott [Neeson, CCF’s founder] and had long chats with him. Scott just blew us away. He’d given up everything for it [CCF] and we just thought, so few people in the world would do what he has done.
“I think the fact that has now seen the first children go from when they were teeny-tiny right through to and beyond, he’s seen the whole life cycle go one time, must be so rewarding for him. The achievements that they can make through education is amazing.”
Scott was so down-to-earth. Just a really, really nice person.
Eloise remembers snapshots of the visit. Photographs help bring back the memories, and show a small Eloise, in a white sundress with her hair in pigtails tied with pink ribbons, meeting CCF children in their blue uniforms in the classroom and visiting CCF’s bakery [since closed] and other facilities.
I remember the classroom with all the tiny children and I remember some of their faces,” says Eloise.
“I remember some of what the area looked like - there was a massive dump and some buildings around it - and I remember Scott very well.”
The CCF trip certainly made a lasting impression on Eloise and her mum.
Ever since, Eloise has donated some of her Christmas and Birthday money to CCF to help some of the most impoverished children and families in Cambodia.
“It’s just a really, really nice thing to do and you feel amazing helping others,” says Eloise, who turns 13 in June.
Her family are rightly proud of Eloise, a thoughtful, confident and articulate girl, showing a maturity and sensitivity well beyond her years.
Around the end of May, Eloise will give a presentation to her school, where she is a boarding student, about her fundraising activities and why she chose CCF.
She’ll also be showing off her new hair - which by then will have grown a little, like her passion and enthusiasm for CCF, which continues to flourish too.
Eloise hopes the money she has raised will go to wherever it is needed most at CCF, although she is particularly keen on helping families living in squalid conditions who need new homes.
She would also love to return to CCF and see firsthand how much of a difference her donation is making; something which could be on the agenda soon with the family planning to go to Hong Kong when travel restrictions are lifted.
“I would really, really like to, that would be amazing,” says Eloise.
* Visit Eloise’s JustGiving page: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/eloise-r