2011 Tanzania Race for the Cure
Chris Bennett of Komen’s International team joined Komen Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Katrina McGhee to the 2011 Tanzania Race for the Cure® Oct. 23 in Dar es Salaam. Bennett shares his personal view of the Race, and Komen’s partnership.
As we entered Dar es Salaam’s city center and pulled into the parking lot, I saw people with white and pink t-shirts coming from all directions. More than 2,000 people braved the morning heat to participate in the third annual Tanzania Race for the Cure. Hosted by the Tanzania Breast Cancer Foundation in a collaboration with Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, participants included local Tanzanians, a 55-member U.S. Embassy team, survivors in pink t-shirts and children with their mothers and fathers all eager to join the race. I met a group of youngsters, socially aware and eager to support the mission, who had come from the northern part of the country. It was as diverse a group as one would see on a Sunday morning in Dar es Salaam.
The army of Pink racers left the city center at 8 a.m. for the 5 kilometer walk through the streets of Dar. Covering the length of a city block, race participants began to walk, flanked by a troupe of musicians and led by a uniformed marching band. Security and local police cleared the path. Immediately, the city came alive. The music and rhythm of the walkers was contagious and even those not in the race were seen dancing and joining in.
As we walked past buildings, next to alleys and through entire neighborhoods, the power of the event became immediately aware. Each street that we passed had a group of bystanders and onlookers, pointing, looking and asking questions. What are they doing? Why is everyone wearing pink?
I saw young boys tugging on their mother’s skirts and pointing to the group; a young girl, who was busy trying to open a can of soda her father had given her, stopped immediately as we passed and pointed as if to ask her father what was going on. People on buses, unable to penetrate the stream of pink, looked on with part wonder, part frustration as the group continued unabated. These questions, the inquisitive looks and the amazement of some of the city’s residents; this is the power of the Race for the Cure. Each Race generates awareness far beyond those who participate in it.
The walk slowed only as the marching band at the front changed streets in an effort to return to the stadium. Photographers and local media either filmed the scene from moving vehicles or ran alongside trying to capture the faces of the women and the individuals who had decided to spend a hot morning marching in support of breast cancer programs in Tanzania.
Each woman, wearing a pink t-shirt told a different story. This is a country where late-stage diagnosis and a fragile health system lead to unacceptably high morbidity and mortality rates. As in most countries in Africa, Tanzania women desperately need awareness programs and early diagnosis venues.
As the group re-entered the stadium, there was a renewed sense of energy. Even though they had endured a long walk in the blistering sun, the army of pink continued to the seating area, dancing, laughing and celebrating the accomplishment.
After about 30 minutes, the program began with introductions from the head of the Tanzania Breast Cancer Foundation and her sisters in arms who battle the disease on a daily basis in Tanzania. Some survivors took to the stage, sharing their stories and imploring the women in the crowd to be screened. Government officials assured the crowd that the government was aware of the need to support more screening, better treatment options and provide support for the mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmothers afflicted by this terrible disease. Katrina McGhee rallied the crowd by saying that Susan G. Komen, which has partnered with the TBCF in Tanzania since 2008, would continue to support programs to end the disease on the continent and around the world. There were applause, there was laughter and there was passion.
And then, almost four hours after it began, the 3rd Annual Tanzania Race for the Cure ended with people taking pictures, smiling and sharing stories. Just as easily as the 1,500 people had streamed into the city center that morning, they were gone, blending into the daily hustle and bustle of city life.
I may have imagined it, but I sensed a little more energy in the city that morning; a little more enthusiasm and a strong sense of accomplishment. The army of pink had awoken the city and even those who had no idea that the race was coming, began their days a little more aware. They had seen the faces of breast cancer; the survivors, the co-survivors, the women and the advocates. And hopefully, they would begin to ask questions.
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.