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Dinner marks 20 years of Foundation’s fight against breast cancer

Tuesday 9 July 2024 | Written by Talaia Mika | Published in Features, Go Local, Health, Local, National

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Dinner marks 20 years of Foundation’s fight against breast cancer
Renowned Aotearoa New Zealand media personalities Carol Hirschfeld and Moana Maniapoto with Cook Islands Breast Cancer Foundation president, Jaewynn McKay. TALAIA MIKA/24070813

It was all pink dazzling everywhere at the Tamarind House on Sunday as the Cook Islands Breast Cancer Foundation (CIBCF) gathered with its supporters to commence the long celebration of the foundation’s 20 years of existence in the country.

The Breast Cancer Foundation has been around this long, helping women battle with breast cancer and promoting awareness across the country.

This year, many have reminisced on the importance of the foundation, its goals and milestones as well as paying tribute to the survivors of cancer.

Jaewynn McKay, president of the Cook Islands Breast Cancer Foundation, says there will be some upcoming events to mark the foundation’s 20th anniversary, which kicked off with a dinner event on Sunday. The dinner event was attended by all its sponsors and friends, who came to celebrate the foundation’s milestone and show their support for its ongoing work.

“It’s a great event to kick off our 20 years celebration. The purpose is to celebrate our 20 years of existence and also to garner more support, get more members involved, funds, the more funds we have the more women we can bring from the outer islands to have mammograms,” McKay said.

“For the first time, we’ve got over 70 members which is a big thing for us because we’ve never had that many members before and I think there’s good support for it and looking at the gathering tonight, there are a lot of faces I have never seen before so I thought it’s nice to be able to encourage more Cook Islanders to come to events like this to support something that affects all of us.

“Breast cancer affects every family, there’s not one family that hasn’t been tarnished by a member having had breast cancer. Early detection is the key, and more awareness we can garner and encourage, the better the health of our families.”

Held at the Tamarind House, the fundraising event aimed to raise awareness about breast cancer detection and offered guests an evening with two of Aotearoa’s most acclaimed media personalities.

The two media personalities, Carol Hirschfeld and Moana Maniapoto, are known to many Cook Islanders for their work in radio and television for which they have both received multiple awards.

Maniapoto is known to many as a singer song writer, and a television current affairs presenter and interviewer.  She is an award-winning journalist, singer, songwriter, documentary maker and advocate. Her band Moana & the Tribe have played countless international stages taking their haka-funk-dub-fusion and politically charged music to the Herodus Atticus (Athens), Sydney Opera House (Australia), Montreux Jazz Festival (Switzerland), Sziget (Budapest), Le Club (Moscow)and the Shanghai World Expo, just to name a few.

Hirschfeld, who shared the stage with Maniapoto, has a stellar career in the New Zealand media as a presenter, interviewer and producer, for both radio and TV.

She is one of New Zealand’s best loved broadcasters, having had a lengthy career as a presenter and producer with both TVNZ and TV3. She is best known for her role as a TV3 news presenter alongside John Campbell from 1998 until 2005.

In 2009, Hirschfeld became head of programming at Maori Television and then went on to be the head of content at Radio New Zealand and head of video/audio and content partnerships at Stuff. She is currently the executive producer of TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.

McKay highlighted that the stars of the night, Hirschfeld and Maniapoto, shared an entertaining and thought-provoking discussion with the audience.

“Carol and Moana both agreed to come and share their stories and interview each other which was never done before, they’re so entertaining and they shared stories that I don’t think anyone else ever heard of.”

This dinner is the first in a series of activities planned over the next 10 months to mark the 20 years of the Cook Islands Breast Cancer Foundation.

McKay also talked about the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to 2020, the foundation had for 16 years supported an Australian team who volunteered their time to run the Cook Islands’ breast screening programme.

The volunteers were finally able to return once after the pandemic in 2022, screening 809 women from Rarotonga and the Pa Enua.

In addition to supporting the team from Australia, the Breast Cancer Foundation has funded the airfares for women from the Southern Pa Enua to come to Rarotonga for breast screening.

One of the founding members and patron of the foundation, Helen Henry in her key remarks, thanked the foundation for their ongoing support.

“Foundation had benefitted over the years from the dedication of our many volunteers and on that note, I would like to mention the amazing service of Dr Fran Jones and her team of doctors, radiologists, and technicians,” Henry said.

“Since 2006, the New South Wales hospital donated a mammography machine to our Rarotonga hospital, the team regularly given up their holidays to screen the women of the Cook Islands. They were here last year for one month, when they were able to see over 800 women.

“We have come so far and have accomplished so much but there is still much to do. The advocacy is also about getting government to step up. They can also give more voice to those who don’t have one.”