Six-year-old's haircut raises over $5000 for cancer

Robert Esekia Manu is just six years old but has galvanised over 40 friends and family to raise $5100 for the Samoa Cancer Society (S.C.S.) - just by agreeing to cut his hair. 

The youngster agreed to the chairty trim in honour of his late grandfather, Robert Geoffrey Marfleet. The young boy was able to hand over a cheque to S.C.S. last week that will help their work immensely. 

His mother, Samantha Marfleet, and grandmother, Tammi Marfleet, told the Samoa Observer their young child has his grandfather’s sense of humour and his way with people.

“My husband had a sense of humour, and he loves people,” Tammi said. 

“He’s just like him, just like his Papa.”

Robert Marfleet passed away aged 87 three years ago, on 16 February 2018, a day before his birthday. He had been diagnosed with late-stage oesophageal cancer in early 2017 and spent most of that year in New Zealand getting radiation therapy.

By the time he and his family realised he had cancer, he was already unable to keep food down as the cancer grew in his throat. Doctors initially thought he would recover but the cancer returned and his condition was terminal. 

“It was a big ordeal, I was with him there all the time,” Tammi said. 

“But he didn’t want us to see he was in pain, he wanted to take it like it was normal, like it’s life.”

Mr. Marfleet had been a regular smoker much of his life, his family said. But after a minor heartache in 2007 he quit cold turkey, telling his wife he saw his family flash before his eyes.

His family hopes that by fundraising for S.C.S., they will help someone who needs early testing, treatment or care from the disease.

“I think it’s our way of giving back to something that has taken someone we loved, and it will help someone else,” Samantha said.

“We have a lot of friends that passed away because of cancer, so if we can help someone, it’s a blessing,” Tammi said.  

Samoa Cancer Society Chief Executive Officer Su’a John Ryan thanked the family, especially young Robert, for their contribution to their work.

“We would like to say ‘malo lava and well done’ to Robert Esekia Manu, for stepping up and cutting his hair in memory of his grandfather, Jeff. 

“This is such a great initiative for raising community awareness for cancer as part of the memorial for a much-loved grandfather, father and husband. 

“S.C.S would like to acknowledge and thank all who gave so generously as well. Your donations will greatly assist S.C.S. in providing support for those families that have been touched by cancer.”

Tammi said her husband loved Samoa, and desperately wanted to return to the islands when it became clear he would not survive his illness. But due to his condition, he could not travel.

Mr. Marfleet was finally laid to rest in Samoa on 24 February 2018, just a few days before, and three years later his grandson cut his hair for the very first time.

“He knows he has raised money to help the Cancer Society, he was excited about all the attention,” Samantha said.

“He knew he was raisings funds for his papa so we could give it to a good cause.”

The family has known for years that Robert’s first haircut would be a fundraising opportunity, but it was a matter of when the child would allow the clippers to come close to his hair, which before the cut reached the base of his back.

“After Dad’s one year anniversary, when the family came round, we were tired of Robert having long hair and thought if we cut it we’ll do it for a cause, and it will be in tribute for Dad and raise money for cancer,” Samantha said. 

“Then he finally gave his approval on the week of Dad’s birthday.” 

So with just a week to go until his grandfather’s memorial anniversary, the family promptly sent out a fundraising email and a few messages on social media, and say they were amazed at the response.

They were even invited to give an interview on the radio to promote their event, and many people showed up on the day to make last-minute donations. 

Donations came from individuals, families, and businesses both local and overseas. Altogether 42 donations came, and Samantha said she imagines with more time, they could have raised even more money.

On the big day, Danny and Theresa Malala from Top Cuts Barber Samoa came to perform the momentous haircut. Mr. Malala even stayed after to give a few free haircuts afterwards, the two said.

The family is extremely grateful for all their supporters, especially during the economic hardship most people are experiencing. 

“It was more than we expected,” Samantha said. Donations ranged from $10 to $500.   

“Pretty much 99 per cent of the people we emailed responded. We are really grateful to the people that pledged, they were really generous.  

“Whether it is big or small it was greatly appreciated.”

Read Samoa Observer editor in chief Savea Sano Malifa’s tribute to Mr. Marfleet, who was an integral part of building the Samoa Observer.

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