October is a special time of year – it is recognised as Breast Cancer Awareness month internationally and the annual campaign strives to educate women around the world about the disease and the huge importance of early detection.
UAE-founded Pink Caravan has been working tirelessly over the past six years to not just educate women on the issue but also encourage them to get screened through various events and activities. We catch up with Lize de Jonge, programme manager at Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP), to talk about the work the initiative has been carrying out across the country since its inception.
Pink Caravan and FOCP have been working together on the latter’s Kashf programme – an initiative set up especially for the early detection of cancer.
WHAT IS PINK CARAVAN?
Pink Caravan is a UAE-wide breast cancer awareness and screening initiative that was founded in 2011. “We work on educating the public through various platforms – public events, corporate wellness days and the Pink Caravan rides,” says de Jonge.
“We have four key tracks through which we work towards our goals. The first is to partner with existing events where we are selected as their beneficiary of choice.” These could be afternoon teas, breakfasts, galas, or something else, explains de Jonge.
The second route is where a party generously donates a portion of its sales to Pink Caravan. “So, a hotel could donate a percentage of the price of a room. Or a restaurant could create a signature dish and a portion of the sales of that dish is given to the charity.” Pink Caravan also raises much-needed funds by selling its own merchandise.
Hosting wellness days at multi-national corporations across the country has proved to be one of Pink Caravan’s most important and successful endeavours. The group visits offices to conduct awareness talks along with a team of panellists and medical staff. “We work with guest speakers who range from medical experts and breast cancer survivors,” says de Jonge.
Employees are then invited to a private clinical examination, which could take anywhere between five and 15 minutes. Then the session ends with a quick makeover courtesy a partnering nail spa.
PINK CARAVAN RIDE
Apart from tying up with companies and hotels and selling merchandise, the initiative also hosts its Pink Caravan Ride – a 10-day horse ride across all emirates that takes place early in the year.
Volunteers wearing pink vests ride through the cities encouraging people to head to one of the clinics located in the area for a free examination. “While the ride takes place in a different emirate each day, our medical teams are deployed to free clinics around them to conduct clinical examinations. We set a target of 5,000 clinical examinations over the 10-day period, which we usually exceed,” adds de Jonge.
While the ride certainly helps attract the attention of women, de Jonge hopes it generates interest amongst men, too.
NOT JUST FOR WOMEN
De Jonge says men are often unaware that they too could develop breast cancer. “Men walk around with silent symptoms for much longer and by the time we catch it, it is quite advanced,” she says. “Out of 100 breast cancer cases, 99 will be female and one will be a male. It is rare, but it can happen.”
Pink Caravan will set up booths at The Galleria (October 12-19) and The Mall at World Trade Center (October 27-31) from 4pm-10pm for free clinical examinations and awareness demonstrations. So, mark your calendars and get checked out.
For more information about Pink Caravan or to volunteer as a rider on the Pink Caravan Rides visit www.pinkcaravan.ae.