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Barbara Wilcox hopes to go on MPPC mission trip using unique fundraising approach

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on May 21, 2014

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Barbara Wilcox is a relatively new resident of Menlo Park, but the street she lives on has historical roots. It was once the site of Camp Fremont’s bakery.

Barbara knows little nuggets of facts like this because the World War I training camp is the subject of her Master’s thesis at Stanford. A former journalist, she returned to school in her 50s and was diagnosed with breast cancer in the last year of the program.

She’s completed treatment and is now planning a trip to Zimbabwe in August with a Menlo Park Presbyterian Church mission team. They’ll be aiding Hands of Hope, a Bay Area-based NGO that runs 20 group homes for orphans in and around Harare, the capital.

It was her email that had sparked our interest: “Being a grad student coming out of chemotherapy with limited means, I am raising funds by auctioning off the only noteworthy thing I have: my baldness.” She’s fundraising online via Indiegogo.

Her doctor has cleared her to go, and Barbara says she feels normal, “except that I have no hair.”

“I really struggled with losing my hair,” she explains. “For women, baldness is the visible sign of illness. Having excessive pride over my hair was something I had to confront. What’s important is health.”

The mission trip is one part of what she describes as a “need to engage with the world and think about other things than my appearance.”

The MPPC team will be running a weeklong summer camp for kids, delivering supplies unavailable in Harare, helping the kids with their English, and determining how MPPC can help in the future.

Barbara has been to South Africa and visited some of the Johannesburg suburbs that are filled with Zimbabwe refugees. “I knew about the challenges facing the people without knowing much about Zimbabwe as a country,” she says. “When this opportunity came up, I knew there was a need, both for those we are aiding and for me in my healing journey.”

Barbara hopes to have her fundraising complete by June 1.


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