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Pudhuvasantham

Teach breast cancer basics & self exam on a one on one basis

95000 women reached in 3 phases

Pudhu Vasanatham – meaning new spring – is a project to reach breast cancer awareness and teach breast self exam on a one to one basis. This will not be an exhaustive exposition but a concise program of 15 minutes.  It will give basic information, teach breast self exam on breast models and will end with an assessment questionnaire. Every minute which would the volunteer spend with a lady was planned . And it was decided that all educators will conduct the program similarly and speak only what was told to them.

Phase 1

Volunteers in Coimbatore, Chennai & Mumbai were trained through training workshops and the program commenced on 1st Dec 08.  The twenty five lady volunteers thus trained were in the field immediately in all parts of Tamil Nadu and in and around Mumbai.  They talked to women of all ages – from college students to women at old age homes. The entire spectrum of society was covered – from tribal women to high society. And they encountered them in ones, twos and thousands!

In 30 months time 37, 000 women have been reached! This is a phenomenal number considering the fact that this campaign was on a one to one basis and was conducted by volunteers who were otherwise busy with day to day work. From the high reaches of Kodaikanal to fishermen kuppams in Chennai , from elite socialite circles in Coimbatore to tribals in  Mumbai , from college students in cities to self help groups in villages women learnt the basics from a person committed to the cause. At kitty parties, at bhajan sessions, at family get togethers ,at business meets, at crèches, at schools, offices, colleges and even at street corners our lady volunteers were there with forms and models.

And what did they get in return ? Gratitude, thanks or call it any other name and they came in heaps. This is clear from the accounts that they have given us .The excerpts of these are in the pages of this chronicle. Each of them has felt that for the little time they have spent they gave a lot and earned a lot more. Certainly this is an onset of a new spring in the lives of women in India!

Phase 2

Though response was very good, the momentum couldn’t be kept up as volunteer enthusiasm dampened over time. It slowed down but it continued. The standard method of lec dem for large groups also continued.

In 2015 July for the first time in the history of trust we decided to enroll paid educators for this program. Breast cancer awareness had improved tremendously since 1998 when it began creating awareness, yet the numbers of women with advanced cases hadn’t dropped significantly. Even in June 2015 more than 80 % of women detected to have breast cancer were in stage III or IV . This is across India. Hence to step up awareness and overcome the shortage of volunteers it decided to rope in paid educators.

In Aug 2015 it had 12 ladies who were well trained to conduct this short session and they went to the field to create awareness.  By March 2016 this group has covered close to 20,000 women around Chennai & Coimbatore. Leading among those who are conducting this program is Mrs.Shanti in chennai . She covers close to 700 women each month. As they in Tamil she has been reaching women in every patti – thotti , every nook nook & corner. A bulk is women from villages near Arakkonam , who are enrolled in the MNREGA scheme. Women in & around Coimbatore are being taught by the dozens.

Phase 3

In Oct 16 this project received the support from Association For India’s development ( AID) through its Chicago & Boston chapters. In the 13 months after the assistance began the project has covered 37021 women from 5 nodes : Chennai, Dindigul, Coimbatore , Mumbai & Sangmeshwar. In the last 3 -4 months almost 100 – 150 women are reached every day !

It has been out aim to reach as many women as possible we opened up more nodes . Dindigul was opened in the Chennai sector & Sangameshwar near Ratnagiri in the Mumbai sector. At each node workshops were held and interested women underwent rigorous training to become educators

 In Chennai training workshops were held in October, March & June. Though a large number of women came in for the orientation talks the number actually selected were few.  In Chennai there are about 16 educators and of these only 8 are active.  Mrs. Shanthi amongst them is the leader who by herself has covered 6165 women in the last year .

At Coimbatore 2 workshops were held and 11 more educators were enrolled. Sadly just 2 of them educated women in their first 2 months. It is only Mrs. Meenakshi Selvaraj who is active now.

In Chennai training workshops were held in October, March & June. Though a large number of women came in for the orientation talks the number of actually selected were few.  In Chennai there are about 16 educators and of these only 8 are active.  Mrs. Shanthi amongst them is the leader who by herself has covered 6165 women in the last year .

Two workshops for training women were held in Dindigul in Sept 2016 and March 2017. Shanthi Seva , a local organization had showed interest in the project and helped us to rope in women in the area  for the training . Both these workshops were conducted by Mrs.Meenakshi  Selvaraj , our volunteer from Coimbatore. Among 70 women interested 22 of them were selected and of these 11 are very active. It is very interesting that they have formed groups of 3 – 4 and take up one village at a time. They reach each village and then over the day cover it street by street.  Their effort has paid off and they have highest number of women educated in this year , nearly 20,000 !.

Mumbai sector reached out to women in Pune and Sangmeshwar and the latter succeeded. At Sangmeshwar there are about 12 educators now who are steadily covering women but have not reached the zealous state as of Dindigul so far. Pune holds promise to become a node in the future is the umber that they have reached.

The project commenced in Chennai , Coimbatore & Mumbai in October. While Coimbatore was the leader in the first month, Chennai slowly took over and by June 2017 Dindigul was leading. The number of women reached has been on the increase steadily.

 The trust is on the lookout to add more nodes and enroll more women as educators and reach the message to greater depths.  To make this happen it need more women power and generous contributions and it appeals for both.