We look back on the charity's achievements for Breast Cancer Awareness month
Time Out Bahrain staff
Breast cancer is the number one killer in Bahrain, founder of Think Pink Bahrain Julie Sprakel tells us when we meet.
‘Arab women in general are getting breast cancer ten to 15 years younger than their Western counterparts,’ says Julie. ‘In fact, Bahrain and Qatar are the leaders in breast cancer diagnosis for their women.’
This is what spurred her and her Think Pink Bahrain cohorts to start a fundraising campaign to buy a digital MRI machine, which is set to arrive here in February 2015. ‘There are other digital MRIs on the island but this is the latest and it’s only in one other country in the GCC,’ Julie explains. As opposed to the screening tool, the mammogram, which since Think Pink Bahrain arrived is now available for free to any resident of Bahrain at Salmaniya Medical Centre, this new MRI is a breast specific diagnostic tool. Overall, it costs BD490,000 and the charity only has another BD40,000 left to raise.
For these achievements and many, many others, Think Pink Bahrain has quite simply become an integral part of the community over the years. Yet, just ten years ago, Julie started Think Pink quite by accident following a one-off event at Camelot that ended up raising BD10,500.
‘When I first came here and we first started doing this campaign, you were six degrees of separation from anything to do with breast cancer,’ Julie says. ‘Now you’re one degree. Now it’s someone’s grandmother, mother, sister, aunt.’ Julie herself was successfully treated for breast cancer at just 23 years old and so, following her passion and drive to give something back, and to raise awareness, Think Pink Bahrain has become her baby. Or, as she puts it, ‘I eat, sleep and breathe this because it’s the equivalent of my child.’
Since beginning, Julie and her team members have worked tirelessly to get new initiatives introduced, conduct Arabic and English lectures for all manner of audiences, set up a 24/7 hotline for patients who need help, and also funded numerous medical students and professionals in their endeavours to research the disease and treat sufferers.
‘I’ve met incredible people,’ Julie says. ‘I’ve been really privileged to be in the houses of really strong survivors – amazing families, amazing husbands, amazing networks. I’ve been in government offices of people I never imagined to meet.
‘I really believe Think Pink has made a positive impact and change.’
Of course, Julie says, as the charity is made up of a range of dedicated volunteers with full-time jobs there is only so much they can do. But if everyone collaborates on the subject then huge strides can be made. ‘Why are all the charities around the world trying to reinvent the wheel?’ Julie asks. ‘If we all work together and pull the rope the one way, we can make a bigger change.’
For Julie, this includes more and larger research programmes, and gathering more statistics. ‘There is a cancer registry here that is very good but we need statistics so that the population knows the incidences,’ Julie says. ‘It’s always going to be high initially until we put the steps in place for screening programmes and awareness campaigns.’
And so enters a new decade of Think Pink Bahrain. For more information, to donate or to find out how to volunteer just visit www.thinkpinkbahrain.com.
Think Pink Bahrain is active all year-round but they have a few special events going on this month
Pink rooftop party October 1 To celebrate the beginning of breast cancer awareness month and Think Pink Bahrain’s 10th anniversary, Meisei are hosting a pink rooftop party from 7.30pm. Tickets are BD15. Call 1700 7770.
HOG ride October 3 The Harley Davidson’s Owners Group (HOG’s) are going on a motorbike ride around the island to raise awareness. They leave from the Budaiya dealership at 8am. Call 1759 9006.
9th Texas Scramble October 16 The Royal Golf Club are playing host to the 9th annual ladies 18-hole or 9-hole Texas Scramble on the Montgomerie championship course. Tee off is 8.30am shotgun start and the men’s 9-hole night golf tournament is on the same day. It’s BD20 for members to enter or BD35 and BD46 for guests. Proceeds go to the charity. Call 3806 2180.
Gala evening October 17 To mark their 10th anniversary, Think Pink Bahrain is having an anniversary gala evening hosted by The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel Spa. Tickets are BD50 and on sale now. Call 3907 6717 or 1753 1008.