Sharjah: It all started as a family bonding activity. Jordanian expat Dr. Arabella Hammoudeh, 25, joined her parents, brothers and sisters as a volunteer during the first Pink Caravan Ride in 2011.
The family worked with other volunters and riders to spread awareness on early detection of breast cancer in communities, rural areas, schools, universities, work places and public areas, where the caravan made their stops.
Sharing her experience with Gulf News, Hammoudeh, who has never missed any ride in the last nine years, said breaking the culture of silence surrounding breast cancer was one of the biggest challenges they faced.
“It was considered a taboo to talk about breast and cancer with another person and people were surprised that we were riding horses in the middle of the road,” Hammoudeh recalled.
“But we were very persistent with our mission. So, we went to rural areas and far flung communities to educate the women on the importance of early breast cancer detection,” she underlined.
“We also explained that people have 95 per cent chance of survival if the cancer is detected early and that men can also acquire the disease,” Hammoudeh, who grew up in Sharjah, added.
Hammoudeh became engrossed in the campaign. She said it was based on creating awareness and forged by cooperation and unity among the leaders, organisers and volunteers.
From her initial interaction with the people, Hammoudeh heard transformative stories that turned challenges into inspiring stories. She also saw a glimmer of hope created by providing awareness on public health.
“Hearing stories of women survivors and talking to them inspired me to take up medicine in college. I wanted to do more; so I made a goal to become a doctor,” added Hammoudeh, who earned her medical degree from University of Sharjah last year and is now a surgical intern at a hospital in Abu Dhabi.
Hammoudeh will again join the ride this year and volunteer as a medical doctor.
“More has to be done, the younger generation and men as well need to be educated about the fact that breast cancer can affect anyone at any age. But we can always encourage everyone to undergo early detection and prevention programmes,” she concluded.
Those who want to volunteer for the Pink Caravan Ride, can register at https://www.pinkcaravan.ae/become-a-volunteer/