Rachel gets the chop for a good cause

The JC’s new social media editor has had her head shaved for charity


Rachel's new look

The Jewish Chronicle’s newest staff member has shaved her head to raise money to support people with Down’s syndrome.

Rachel Coussins, 23, the JC’s  social media editor as of last month, is raising the money for 21&Co, a parent-led charity based in southwest London, dedicated to supporting families who have children and young people with Down’s syndrome.

The money is being raised in honour of her friend’s mum, Lisa Woolf, who passed away in December a year and a half after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer – and eight months later than doctors had predicted.

Lisa, who had known Rachel since the latter was just six months old, was a teacher in charge of all the children with special educational needs at the Apples and Honey nursery in Wimbledon synagogue – now Keren’s nursery - which Rachel herself had attended as a toddler.

Lisa was introduced to 21&Co through the family of a child she taught, and the charity came to mean “so much” to her, said Rachel.

So much so that it was at Lisa’s request that at each night of her shiva, there were QR codes for people to scan and donate to 21&Co, which raised approximately £8,000 in her memory over seven nights.

Rachel’s own efforts have so far raised nearly £3,000, with donations mostly coming from friends, family and her new colleagues. Her boyfriend’s parents helped the cause by encouraging people to donate via printed QR codes that were placed on every table at his mum’s 60th birthday party.

In an email to JC staff, Rachel forewarned the office of her intention to shave her head over the weekend. Forwarding the link to the donation page, she wrote: “Please be rest assured that this is more for proof of intent than a request for donations, as I mostly didn’t want anyone on Monday to think it was the stress of the new job that had led to a rash decision!”

Rachel, who said she felt “compelled” to help others because of the Jewish values instilled in her at a young age, had worked and volunteered for several charities in the past but had never on her own initiative sought to raise such a large sum for one charity until now.

Rachel said: “I had wanted to shave my head for a good cause for three years or more but hadn’t found the charity that was quite right for me.”

For her, it wasn’t so much about finding a charity or area of interest with which she felt a personal connection, but rather about “providing an opportunity to extend the goodwill of someone who can no longer do it themselves. I wanted this to be an extension of Lisa’s goodwill, so that it’s her win and under her name.”

Regarding her hair, Rachel had always assumed that she “wouldn’t care” about getting it shaved off, but once the process began, she “actually felt nervous”.

“We cut it in the back garden, not in front of a mirror, so I was just watching other people’s reactions and gasps,” she said.

The hardest part, she said, was dealing with other people’s views on it. “It’s been sort of weird that other people seem to care more about me shaving my head than I do,” she remarked.

She now feels quite committed to “weirder or atypical” fundraising efforts in the future, with shaving one’s head being “one of the best ways” to fundraise.

“From a marketing point of view, it’s one of the most efficient. People will ask why I shaved my head. I’m a walking advertisement for 21&Co at the moment and will be for some months yet.”

To donate to Rachel’s fundraiser, click here

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