V for victory: the 15 horse riders start out on the annual Pink Caravan Ride to raise awareness about breast cancer. Victor Besa for The National
V for victory: the 15 horse riders start out on the annual Pink Caravan Ride to raise awareness about breast cancer. Victor Besa for The National

Pink Caravan begins 10-day trek across the UAE

SHARJAH // Fifteen horse riders, including Emirati doctors and expatriate volunteers, saddled up on Monday to start a 10-day journey across the country to raise awareness of breast cancer.

The first stage of the annual Pink Caravan got under way from Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club and made its way to Al Dhaid Hospital in the east of the emirate.

The final leg will take place in Abu Dhabi – from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to the Galleria Mall – on March 25.

It is hoped more than 5,000 women will benefit from free breast cancer screenings which will be held daily at hospitals and health clinics along the journey.

Ameera Binkaram, president of the board of trustees of the Friends of Cancer Patients charity, which is organising the ride, said the public’s awareness of the disease, particularly among Emiratis, has been increasing each year since the Pink Caravan began in 2011.

“Emirati people are talking more openly about breast cancer now. In previous years, it was very hard and challenging,” said Ms Binkaram, adding that high on the charity’s agenda was the establishment of a national registry for cancer patients. “We are hoping to hear good news about the establishment of the registry this year from the government,” she said.

The participation of Emiratis has helped to raise the profile of the event, said Reem Binkaram, Pink Caravan event co-ordinator. “This year there was a significant increase in the amount of Emiratis taking part in this worthy cause.”

Mohammed Al Mosharaf, who was riding the 30 kilometres from Sharjah Equestrian Club to Al Dhaid, said he hoped more mothers, sisters and daughters across the UAE would be more aware of breast cancer and have the necessary check-ups to help with early detection of the disease.

“I am participating in this ride to raise awareness about this worthy cause,” said the Emirati.

There to wish the riders good luck for the first leg was breast cancer survivor Iman Janan, who was attending with three of her friends.

“I was treated for breast cancer 14 years ago and I am here to show support for breast cancer awareness campaigns,” said the Palestinian, who works at a health programme that helps more than 1,700 cancer patients in Gaza.

“The Pink Caravan ride is so close to my heart,” said Lamia Al Sweidi, a 23-year-old Emirati volunteer. “Our campaign will keep on going until we raise awareness about cancer in every house in the Emirates.”

Day one of the trek ended with screenings taking place in Al Dhaid’s main hospital as well as Al Qasimi Hospital and the Sharjah Charity Association. On Tuesday, the riders will trot along to Fujairah, with check-ups at Masafi Hospital, Diba Al Fujairah Hospital and Kalba Hospital.

On Wednesday, the group will stay on the east coast, riding from Fujairah City Centre Mall to the Oceanic Hotel in Khor Fakkan, with tests at nearby hospitals and clinics. The caravan will call at the Cove Rotana hotel in RAK the following day with medical teams setting up at Saqair Hospital, Saif Ben Ghabash and Sham Hospital.

The trek’s route then returns to Sharjah before stopping in Dubai, Umm Al Quwain, eastern Sharjah and Ajman, Dubai again and then Al Ain before ending in Abu Dhabi next Wednesday.

One of the expatriates taking part in the event, Mia from Finland, who has been living in the UAE for the last five years, will ride with the Pink Caravan for the first four days.

“The is my first time here and my journey will end in Ras Al Khaimah, I take part in endurance races for as long as 100 kilometres, the ride will be easy.”

Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah, donated 17 thoroughbred horses to be auctioned off in aid of the Friends of Cancer Patients charity on Saturday at the Dubai World Trade Centre.



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