Inspirational Connections through Breast Cancer
A true blessing and bonus of educational outreach is inspirational connections through the breast cancer community. I recently received an email from Cinde and she humbly asked to write a guest blog about how she came to develop her drain carrier after surviving breast cancer three times. Like me, Cinde has undergone DIEP flap breast reconstruction . Naturally, I was curious to hear her story and after reading it I am honored to share this guest blog. Cinde is not only providing a product for breast cancer patients but her outreach became global and continues to positively impact women in Karunga, Tanzania.
Thank you for sharing this guest blog to the breast cancer community, Cinde.
Post-Op Drain Management and the Mamas of Kilimanjaro
I’m a four-time cancer survivor, three-time breast cancer survivor.
After being diagnosed with cancer so many times — and surviving — I was in a position to give back to the global community. I volunteered to work in a small village in Tanzania, Africa.
It’s a world much different than mine.
People move at a different pace.
They stop and listen.
If you announce that a family member is ill, they want to know how long, what did they eat and how you plan to treat them.
In their world, the pace of walking is much more sensible.
In Karunga, when you stroll, there’s a better chance of running into a friend or spotting a child that’s gotten out of earshot from its family.
My volunteer placement gave me the opportunity to work with women in this rural village, who established their very own micro finance group.
Mkombozi Women’s Group had been meeting for more than five years when I received the placement. The micro-loan cooperative consisted of mamas* living within a one mile radius of the home base where I stayed. In a micro-loan group, members set aside a little cash each week and bring it to weekly meetings, in order to invest back into the group.
My job was to bring both English and business education to Mkombozi. In all honesty, they were the teachers, and I was the student. Our accomplishments were celebrated with families and included dancing, singing and occasionally, banana beer.
A year into my remission, I initiated a project in the U.S. to provide ease, comfort and value to cancer patients after surgery who must wear Jackson-Pratt drains. The KILI Medical Drain Carrier suspends drains by using a simple design apron, constructed of fine light mesh material.
With the help of Mkombozi, we designed and produced decorative versions of the carrier. The aprons were constructed of exotic and colorful local fabrics.
We had so much fun. Sewing was conducted on a treadle machine – allowing each mama to take a turn at being seamstress. In just two weeks, Mkombozi produced 40 spectacular aprons. A single Facebook post resulted in all 40 aprons being sold in about 12 hours. Actually more than 40 aprons sold. A wait-list for the item had to be started, and individuals began ordering three or four at a time. The first round netted 400,000 TZ shillings, or about $220 US, for Mkombozi.
Mkombozi is now a business, as well as a micro-loan finance group.
The endeavor gives mamas financial resources to pay school fees, buy more farming materials and improve their living conditions. And, they feel so proud of their skills. The project opened the door to other endeavors and increased their understanding of business models.
The aprons are available to purchase here: www.KilimanjaroCarrier.com. More information on the Mkoombozi women’s group can be found on their website:
KILI Medical Drain Carriers are now distributed in several hospital post-anesthesia care units, and also available online: www.medicaldraincarrier.com
*an endearing term for women in Tanzania and Kenya