It’s Movember time again, Jakarta style

Zack Petersen
How growing a mustache and enduring a month of awkward stares will help kids with cancer in Jakarta

MUSTACHE FOR CASH. The author auctioning off his mustache at the Movember event in Jakarta last year. Photo courtesy of the Jakarta Movember Facebook page

It’s Movember time again. Some women love it, some hate it, but everyone respects the cause. Some even greet the upper lips of those involved with applause.

It’s become something to look forward to every year: the manly (or not) mustaches on the faces of guys around the world raising awareness for prostate cancer.

It’s very simple: The guys start clean-shaven on Saturday, November 1, and spend the rest of the month enduring awkward or amused stares at their growing facial fur. When people ask, they point to the cause: encouraging men to get a prostate exam, especially those over 45 who have a history of cancer in their family.

“It’s a creative way to make a month-long statement about having the courage not just to groom yourself in a currently unfashionable way but also to talk about the men’s health issue that it stands for,” says Scott Hanna, who founded the Movember movement in Jakarta.

“A month of mustache is enough for anyone, so at the end of Movemeber we gather for an auction to raise funds for cancer causes.”

As amusing it is, the facts behind it are sad: One new case of prostate cancer occurs every 2.3 minutes and a man dies from it every 18 minutes. Approximately 15% of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during their lifetime.

Taking Movember a step further

But here in the Big Durian, the Mos bros and Sistas of Jakarta Movember have put their own spin on the annual awareness campaign, searching out a silver-lining rather than fixating on grim statistics.

Throughout the month, the men who use their upper lip as a billboard for cancer awareness will also promote Komunitas Taufan (Taufan Community), a passion project founded by Yani Dewie, who lost her son Taufan to leukemia on May 1, 2012, a day before his 7th birthday.

Yani has since dedicated her life to supporting and encouraging the mothers of children with cancer. She visits some of the most impoverished local hospitals and educates moms on everything from how to find the proper government funding for their child’s treatment to proper nutrition and how to interact with doctors and staff.

Yani herself was once a scared and confused mother. When her son Taufan was diagnosed with leukemia, she had nowhere to turn to and no one to go to for advice. All the other mothers she met at the Cipto Mangunkusumo hospital in Jakarta were just as bewildered and untrained on the proper treatment methods and dietary restrictions.

In theory the money raised from Movember should go to cancer research abroad, but foundations on average spending as little as 28% of donations on actual research and there is no real prostate cancer research being done in Indonesia. So for the Jakarta Movember folks, giving all the funds they raise to Komunitas Taufan instead was an easy decision.

“Last year, we raised enough money auctioning off the rights to shave our mustaches to fund Komunitas Taufan for an entire year,” Hanna says. The total IDR35 million ($2,900) raised came from just a handful of mustaches.

Not too late to join

After learning about Movember and where the money would go, Wibowo Sulisito, a first-time Mo Bro, couldn’t wait to use his upper lip for a good cause.

“I have never grown a mustache before and never planned to,” the web developer says. “But doing it to raise awareness and fundraise for a cause I am supporting is an easy decision. Komunitas Taufan works to help children patients and their families living at the intersection of poverty and life-threatening illnesses.

“There is both a huge amount of suffering to alleviate and at the same time a fountain of inspiration upon learning about the family’s day-to-day struggle to beat all odds I hope this will grow into a movement that builds bridges of kindness between supporters and patients that will illuminate this corner of the world, make it a little bit brighter. Can’t wait to grow my mo!”

It’s never too late to join Movember. While most of Jakarta Movember Mo Bros start on November 1, everyone is welcome to join to help raise more awareness for men’s cancer and support Komunitas Taufan.

Then at the end of the 30 days, there will be a big party at Spanky’s in Kemang, South Jakarta, where friends and family will gather for the mustache auction. Again, all the proceeds will go to Komunitas Taufan. –

Originally from Iowa, Zack Petersen came to Indonesia because he watched too much Animal Planet as a kid. He currently resides in Jakarta, where he divides his time between writing, reading and volunteering. Follow him on Twitter at @HushPetersen




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