Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Pink Caravan: Riding For Courage.

The Pink Caravan initiative has been going for the past five years in the UAE, a drive to raise awareness of breast cancer early detection and screening and to raise funds to buy an advanced mobile mammography unit to serve the United Arab Emirates. This unit, the 'Carevan', has screened almost 30,000 men and women (men can get breast cancer too) and detected 21 malignancies in women and one in a man since the programme started.

There's a whole cultural angle to breast cancer and its screening here, of course. But the women of the UAE are rallying together and some remarkable work is being done here at a grassroots level to bring women across the country around to the idea that regular screening is a good idea. A couple of years ago, Ajman turned its speed bumps pink to raise awareness. Hang on, in the 'conservative' UAE, we're making pink bump gags to get the point across? Yes, we are.

As anyone who remembers the days of GeekFest will know, I'm a massive fan of communities and online activism for good - and Pink Caravan is both of these things in spades.

Side note/ramble: now a long time dead, GeekFest was a regional social event for online people I was involved with - I was reminded sharply of it over the past couple of days as names I knew from the events we held back then started popping up around the audience of the Arab Social Media Influencers' Summit event in Dubai wot I have bin attending. Much nostalgia followed. Funny how in the Internet age, a couple of years is 'the good old days', isn't it?

Anyway. Pink Caravan. Each year, a group of some 250 horse riders takes to the roads and tracks of the seven emirates, joined by 200 volunteers and ambassadors, well-wishers and supporters. The ride has visited over 80 schools, travelling some 1,000 kilometres around the UAE in its quest to help build awareness, detect and eliminate this deadly disease. They call it 'Riding For Courage'.

From March 16th to the finale on the 25th in Abu Dhabi, the riders will do their thing. They left from Sharjah through Dhaid to Masafi and ended up in Khor Fakkan today, via Fujeirah.

Tomorrow, the 19th March, you'll find them in Ras Al Khaimah, starting at HCT Women's college at 9am and finishing at the Cove Rotana in the evening. The 20th (Friday) will see them riding in Umm Al Quwain and ending up at the Ajman Kempinski at 5.30pm - I'll see you there, it's my 'manor' and I wouldn't miss 250 riders with pink tack for the world!

Saturday the 21st March they'll leave the Ajman Kempinski and ride to the Qasba in Sharjah (passing by my house, natch) and then on Sunday 22nd they'll set off from the Palm Jumeirah Rixos to the Fairmont, The Palm. On Monday 23rd March they'll ride from Downtown Dubai to the Burj Al Arab, Tuesday they'll ride from the Formal Park in Abu Dhabi and end up at Zayed Military Hospital.

Finally, on Wednesday 25th March, some 300 saddle-sore chaps and chapesses will ride from the Sheikh Zayed Mosque to the Galleria Mall. This will be followed by a closing ceremony at the Rosewood Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Anyone wants a VIP pass, they can have mine, kindly sent me by the Pink Caravan Team. For a Sharjah boy, Abu Dhabi on a school night is not really on the agenda, dears.

The Carevan will be following them on their trip around the UAE, visiting an average of three hospitals, health centres or community centres in each location and offering free breast screening at selected stop-offs.

You can find out more, donate or join in by going to the Pink Caravan website here. There's an agenda detailing locations, a calendar of Carevan screening sessions and other events and the chance to donate to support the campaign both as an individual and a corporate partner.

Coming together for good. What's not to love about that?

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