Says McKay: “Donations enable us to assist women from the Pa Enua to get to Rarotonga and also to promote the benefits of having regular mammograms.”
October is the universal month of Breast Cancer Awareness, and she says, the Cook Islands foundation has had a busy few weeks with their various and fundraising partner activities.
October kicked off with a one-off screening of the documentary My Year with Helen that was attended by over 100 locals and the film maker herself, Gaylene Preston.
Three other fundraising events took place around the island, including sausage sizzles hosted by ANZ Bank, raising $658, and the BSP, who collected $550.
“The ANZ kicked in an additional $1000.”
Additionally, she adds, Crown Beach resort had a special cocktail, called the “Boob Tube”, which they promoted during October and $1 from each one sold was donated to the Foundation.
The drink proved to be a popular, as bar staff mixed a total of 412 pink “Boob Tubes”, resulting in a cheque for $412, as well as an extra $190 through resort collection boxes.
And, the generosity doesn’t just end with our donors, says McKay, as the mammography clinical team from Australia take annual leave from their jobs to voluntarily perform the checks in Rarotonga.
The group led by Dr Fran, don’t treat the trip as a holiday, and it’s quite possibly the toughest two working weeks of their year, adds McKay.
“But, they love being here and they love us, the Cook Islands people. They also love the team they get to work with at the hospital. They reckon they turn the x-ray department into chaos for two weeks every year!”
Dr Fran says the success of the programme is only as strong as the four “legs” holding it up – NZ Aid, Dr May and her team at the Rarotonga hospital, and the CI Breast Cancer Foundation team.
“The breast screening programme began in Rarotonga over a decade ago. For the first five years of the programme the funding that paid for the team’s airfares and per diems was via a 50-50 arrangement between Aus Aid and NZ Aid”, says McKay.
For the last seven years the programme has been funded fully by NZ Aid.
Each year at breast screening time the CIBCF funds travel for women from the southern outer islands, who are called up by the Ministry of Health to travel to Rarotonga to have their mammogram.
And she says, by the time October comes around on Rarotonga, fund-raising money and resources are tight on the island.
McKay says one thing the Foundation wasn’t able to do this October was to dramatically increase its membership base.
“Imagine if every woman who had a mammogram joined up. We’d have more members than possibly any other organisation in the country, and we’d have better ways of keeping in touch and supporting each other if and when required. Membership remains an ongoing challenge.”
McKay adds: “It is really important that women are able to be tested early and if needed to get appropriate treatment to allow them to enjoy a better quality of life with their family and friends.
“We are distant from centres where treatment for breast cancer is easily attainable, so it’s important we are able to detect this hideous disease as early as possible.”