A decade ago, Noelene Kotschan started an initiative that would go on to make great strides in the fight against breast cancer. By Nwabisa Ngumbela

‘I knew change needed to happen to combat breast cancer. And that change had to start with me,’ explains Noelene Kotschan, founder of PinkDrive.

An initiative like no other, the PinkDrive is a non-profit company (NPC) that provides education and awareness through their mobile mammography and gynaecology services. It was an extraordinarily ambitious undertaking, but a necessary one in order to bring their message to fruition: early detection saves lives.

Touch and go
‘The start-up stages were a challenge, mostly because the PinkDrive was (and still is) the only cancer organisation in the NPC space that provides specialised mammography services in the form of a truck. There was no blueprint we could follow,’ recalls Noelene.

There was also major professional jealousy within the non-governmental organisation (NGO) and NPC space. ‘The other cancer organisations would not get involved with us or try to help on a collaborative platform. And we had little support from the majority of medical clinicians.’

Baby steps
Then, of course, there were the logistics of building the actual truck. ‘It all came together without much knowledge from my side. I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.’

Luckily, says Noelene, there were those who believed in her. With a few dedicated clinicians and businesses by her side, her dream slowly started to come together. ‘Over a period of four years, we started to prove to all the naysayers that we were here to stay. We overcame a number of hurdles andeventually individuals and corporates began to realise the benefit of their involvement in the initiative. We were able to demonstrate the value of the brand and its sustainability.’

Ready, steady, go!
When the time came to build another vehicle, a different approach was taken. This truck, Mammo2, is a world first. On one side, the unit offers a room where gynaecology services can be offered, and on the other side, the professional mammography service.

‘Our aim is to build more mobile units to take our services to the people of this beautiful country, even if it is just one truck in one province at a time. The more women and men we can educate on the importance of early detection (of any disease), the fewer orphans we will have.’

Set the wheels in motion
The PinkDrive units travel to semi-urban and urban areas all around South Africa with the end goal ofenabling largely disadvantaged groups access to women’s health services. These services include freehealth education, pap smears, mammograms and breast exams, as well as instruction on how to conduct breast self-examinations.

‘Our main aim is to expand our health services, which will inevitably include services such as HIV, TB, diabetes and hypertension tests, and inoculation of babies.’

Make your voice heard
Noelene says they are always looking for any help they can get. They have a host of needs, most important of which is sourcing funds and equipment as well as services from suppliers that will help with some of their running costs. And they are very grateful for every single donation that comes their way. Here’s how you can get involved:

• Shop at Shop4Cancer and show your support by giving a gift that really makes a difference.

• SMS the word ‘PinkDrive’ to 40158 to donate R20. Your small change can help make a big change!

• PinkDrive features at all major SA sporting events. You can run, cycle or swim for the cause, or encourage those who are doing it by cheering them on. There are plenty of ways to show your support.

The man in pink
The organisation decided to get an ambassador for their brand, and they thought no one could fit the slot better than actor Anthony Oseyemi. He threw his weight behind the great Relate Bracelets PinkDrive campaign to promote awareness of breast health. Ads featuring Anthony were placed in media publications as well as in DonnaClaire and Foschini stores countrywide. And they managed to raise close to R650 000! Well done, guys.

This article was first published by The Foschini Group Club magazine on 29 October 2015. Click here to view original.