Breast cancer awareness drive needs help from Pune’s techies – Please help

(Monday, 8th March, is women’s day. PuneTech has decided to use that excuse to start a new series of articles highlighting inspiring stories about Pune’s women. For this purpose, we are roping in women techies who are active in the Pune tech community, and asking them to interview women who have great career stories and can serve as role models. Basically, by Pune’s women, of Pune’s women, for all of us. See this TechCrunch article by Vivek Wadhwa to get an idea of why this is important to do. We’re hoping that this will not just be an article or two in March, but a continuing series. We already have a number of interview candidates identified – but we need more interviewers. If you’re interested, please get in touch with us.

Normally, we expect to highlight women techies – those who have achieved something in the tech field. However, for the first post of this series, we’ve chosen a non-techie; but one who needs help from techies. We are hoping that Pune’s tech community will rally around her. Also note: women bloggers, twitterers will get a chance to interact with her at the Pune women’s blog/tweetup on Sunday 7th March.

This article has been written by Poonam Sharma, an instructional designer at an e-Learning company in Pune, and a prominent blogger.)

Dr. Capt. Ritu Biyani is a breast cancer survivor. Based in Pune, this lady has earned several feathers in her cap: ex-dental surgeon in army, first lady officer paratrooper from the army dental corps, a mountaineer, skydiver and a thorough nomad.

Her story is not important only because she is a cancer survivor, but because she chooses to dedicate her life for cancer awareness activism.  In her zeal to reach out to people around the country, she has driven solo across the country!

solo driving map
This is a map of the road trip that Dr. Ritu took across India with her daughter. They personally delivered breast cancer awareness workshops to over 26000 people in the remotest corners of India. Click on the map for a larger picture.

Along with her then 14-year-old daughter Tista, she drove to the four tips of India in a Ford endeavour for 177 days!

Together she and Tista (her daughter) hold the Limca Book of Records for first mother-daughter duo  expedition on cancer awareness across the country.

You can also read much more details about her story and her initiative at her full interview at the Visceral Observations blog, to know her cause and why another road trip.

On her first expedition, Dr. Ritu reached out to 26000 people. She plans to go on second expedition this time focused on North, Central and South India. However, for her endeavour, Dr. Ritu needs our help in several ways to make this expedition happen.

What is the foremost thing you need help with to make your expedition happen?

The first I need is a sturdy car, preferably 4X 4, since this is a road trip. A SUV with good ground clearance is a necessity. As a woman, safety is an additional concern.  I do not want to be stranded with an unreliable car that breaks down in a remote, distant inaccessible place. Last time I travelled on Ford Endeavour, which served well for the purpose.

Dr. (Capt) Ritu Biyani-Joseph and her daughter, Tista, with the car they used for their breast cancer awareness roadtrip.
Dr. (Capt) Ritu Biyani-Joseph and her daughter, Tista, with the car they used for their breast cancer awareness roadtrip.

This time I am looking for sponsors who believe in the cause enough to arrange funds for a car and other necessities like a data card and BSNL connection on roads. BSNL is the only one that works everywhere and phone is the only way I keep in touch with my family while I am on roads.

I would further need volunteers who can help me organise workshops locally during the expedition.

So you must be in touch with organisations that carry out corporate social responsibility initiatives?

Yes, I have few leads. But I am required to submit proposals. Since I have no prior experience in drafting such proposals, I am counting on help from your readers who are adept at this sort of thing. Further, any leads on possible sponsors are encouraged from the PuneTech readers.

What social media networking Websites have you been using to connect with possible volunteers for your cause?

I rely mostly on my email and phone. Thankfully, so far I have had considerable media coverage, all such articles carry my email and phone. People contact me through both. Then there is a Web site for my foundation Highways Infinite, which I admit requires an overhaul to reflect teh details of my work. I aim to add a section there where anyone can interact with the cancer experts.

I have never used social media networking, but yes I am waking up to its benefits. I am planning to open a twitter and facebook account. My challenge is that due to my schedule, I might not have enough time to manage these profiles. Moreover, I have a long way to go before I can be called ‘web savvy’. J

Perhaps it would help if we had volunteers who manage the twitter and facebook accounts for you. You mentioned something about requiring volunteers to organise the workshops.

Yes, though I have not yet planned my itinerary and exact date of my trips. It would be great if some local volunteers in different parts of India could step forward to organise the workshops in their area. Key assistance required is that they can coordinate and get together people from their community.  I also want to identify few volunteers, who could further be trained to conduct workshops in their own. This way even after I am gone, cancer awareness will continue.

This, as I understand, is a call for the volunteers in other parts of India, especially those living in north, central and south India along the central axis, the route on which you are planning your second expedition.  Is there anything that the volunteers from Pune can help you with?

Yes, I can think of at least two ways. I have been meaning to create a documentary of my first expedition and the recent cancer walk conducted in Pune. The latter is a short-time task. I have video footage that needs to be edited. I am learning to edit my videos, but any help in this task is appreciated.

However, creating documentary out of hours of amateur footage (me and my daughter have shot mostof it. )  is tedious. It requires more work. I also hired an video editor but it did not work out. Hopefully, through your readers I can find me someone who can help me with this mammoth task.

You mentioned a second way Pune volunteers can help you?

Yes, when I conduct workshops on my road trip. I would like to leave behind some posters on cancer awareness, facts and myths. I need help from some creative people who can create as many posters as possible. I have few templates for some such posters, but more creative ideas for the same are also welcome.

So there you go, techies and creative folks, you have it from Dr. Ritu herself as to how you can be part of her noble cancer awareness endeavour. You can brainstorm and suggest web-savvy ideas/strategies to spread her work, organise fund-raisers, and arrange for people who need workshops. Please step forward and extend your helping hand.

In case you want to contribute to Dr. Ritu’s project financially, you are more than welcome. NO AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL. Her foundation is called Highways Infinite. All donations are exempted under 80G [5] of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

Dr. Ritu is a guest speaker at Women’s Day Tweet up in Pune on this Sunday , 7th March, 2010). If you are a women in Pune, you can register here and participate.

Contact details of Dr. Ritu Biyani

  • Email: missionhighways at gmail dot com
  • Phone:  +91 98812 32744

About the Author – Poonam Sharma

Poonam Sharma is an instructional designer by profession. She is a bibliophile, movie and theater lover, who doesn’t think twice to take up social causes. She calls herself a small-time activist and blogs at Visceral Observations.

(Editors note for those planning on helping out: Remember that Dr. Ritu is doing a lot of work by just herself. As such, she does not really have the time to do all the things that really could be done. So, rather than simply offering guidance, it would be better if you could actually offer to do things for her. For example, guiding her on how to use a facebook fan page to reach people is of limited use; much better is if you volunteer to not only create the fan page, but to run it (with inputs from Ritu), for the next 6 months. -PuneTech ed.)

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4 thoughts on “Breast cancer awareness drive needs help from Pune’s techies – Please help

  1. This is a great initiative from PuneTech.

    Good to know about powerful women like Dr. Ritu. I am sure this series of posts would inspire the professional techie community to stand up and join hands in such social endeavors.

    There are many striving for various social causes in NGOs and professional help from people like us is just priceless…

  2. Madam,
    My younger sister recently got suspect of breast cancer.Presently she is undergoing detail tests at Tata Hospital at Mumbai.
    It will be great help to us if we can contact you for your guidance with detailed reports.

  3. Dear Dr Ritu & Miss Tista
    I admire your valuable contribution to the society and sincerely hope your efforts would benefit the sufferers a great deal. Keep it up brave mother & the daughter…. Misra

  4. Dear,

    This is really good to know u people r thinking for woman.
    for more awarness regarding cancer is needed in our set of society.u Can contact Dr.Shona Nag (MD),Sahyadri hospital,Pune.

    She is really one point of contact for cancer education.

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