The Pudhuvasantham project aimed to drive home the basics about breast cancer and teach them breast self exam on a one on one basis. This was felt deeply necessary as the decade old lecdems that we were conducting did not seem adequately effective. . Secondly women were shy to attend such programs and hardly looked at the visuals displayed at the presentation. It is then in Oct 2008 we embarked on this project with 25 lady volunteers who were trained to give a 15 minute program which included a 5 minute demo of Breast self exam on a hand model. Importantly at the end , women who attended were asked to fill questionnaire which covered the minimum information to be remembered by them.
There was a great response to this method. In the 30 months beginning Oct 2008 ,37,000 women were educated! This was a phenomenal number considering that it was one to one, 95 times out of hundred. The response was very good, but the momentum couldn’t be kept up as volunteer enthusiasm dampened over time. It slowed down but it continued.
In 2015 July for the first time in the history of trust we decided to enroll paid educators for this program. In Aug 2015 we 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.
This encouraged us to take it forward with help of paid educators and an appeal for support was put up to Association for India’s development . Its Chicago & Boston chapters pitched in support for the next 2 years . And from october 2016– 2018 we have reached to 80,000 women . Our total score in this project has reached to nearly 1, 40 ,000 women ! In the last year we have been consistently reaching 125 – 150 women every day of the calendar !
The project Pudhuvasntham was happening from several nodes in Tamil Nadu and at a couple of centres in Maharashtra. In 2008 – 2010 periods it was a quite happening in Coimbatore, in 2015 it picked up in Chennai and gave a huge momentum to our second mode. This enthused us to open new nodes. A Workshop was conducted in Dindugul under the auspices of Shanthi Seva by Mrs. Meenakshi Selvaraj , our volunteer. From the 70 women , 22 qualified to be educators in this project. In the months to come more workshops were conducted and today a group of 11 women educators are conducting these sessions on a regular basis.
In the last one and half years these educators have reached to a huge number of women in Dindigul, 46411 women accounting for nearly 57 % of total women reached under this project in the last 2 years. These ladies are highly motivated and conduct these sessions on a daily basis. Interestingly they have formed small groups of 3 or 4 and this group reaches a village or a locality by 10 in the morning. Through the day they cover the area literally house by house.
In January 2018 more nodes were begun at Denkanikottai , near Hosur and Ayikudi near Tenkasi. There was a lot initial enthusiasm but this speedily declined. At Mumbai & Sangmeshwar this project is moving t a slow but steady pace.
The lady educators are constantly reinforced with knowledge about breast cancer and workshops have been conducted on a half yearly basis. At the field these educators are asked a number of queries and we from the trust have trained them well to clarify these queries and most importantly give the correct answers. To the reader it may sound very simple but in reality this is quite a tough job. These women do not have any medical background and most of them haven’t gone to a college too. To implant in them a subject like cancer and its nuances is quite a task. We are happy that we have managed it reasonably well and the lady educators are quite thorough in their subject.
A question often asked, especially by the people who funded the project, is what has been its impact. A Greek proverb says that society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. Much is the same for this or any kind of awareness program. The impact takes several years or decades. This knowledge that they have gained will help them to pick up cancer early or even prevent it in the future, near or distant Certain amount of impact is already visible. In the last couple of years we have seen many women seeking mammograms or breast examination. And in the last year we have had 3 women who had attended these sessions over the last 3 years come to our hospital in Chennai with breast cancer. Two of these women have had treatment at our hospital in Chennai, one of them totally sponsored, the other partially.
Pudhuvasantham is definitely a need & is a simple cost effective way of creating awareness about a cancer which is the most common type in India. We from the trust profusely thank our lady educators who have taken up this with such great enthusiasm. Association For India ‘s development we are happy gave us the necessary energizer for the last 2 years . We have to take it further, make it larger and cover as many women as possible. For this we need Funds & platforms aplenty.