Trinidad and Tobago’s Beauty With a Purpose Project 2016
Championing Cervical Cancer – Let’s do it for our girls!
Research has found that globally Cervical Cancer was the third highest cause of Cancerous Death in women. In 2012, further research revealed startling statistics for Trinidad and Tobago which showed that Cervical Cancer was the second highest cause of Cancerous Deaths for women. This was of grave concern for the then Government which embarked upon a path to determine what were the factors that contributed to such alarming statistics.
It was found from our country’s leading Oncologists that there were several factors which led to such high death rates for cervical cancer particularly. This factors were included lack of knowledge about the disease, the geographical location of most affected women and most importantly the taboo conversation on the HPV vaccine. The former administration tried to implement the need for young girls to be vaccinated with the HPV vaccine but because of religious beliefs, questions surrounding side effects of the vaccine and its perceived linkage to sexual activity, this programme was rejected by our country’s religious leaders.
When the Miss World Trinidad and Tobago Team met in early 2016 to examine and choose a project that would have the greatest importance and impact on society it was felt that enough time had lapsed and therefore it was important to re-open the conversation on Cervical Cancer and Prevention in Trinidad and Tobago. It was also important to our delegate Miss World Trinidad and Tobago Daniella Walcott since for her the impact of this disease touched home as a close family member battled the dreaded disease.
The Miss World Trinidad and Tobago Team set out to meet with the best professionals within the field of Oncology in Trinidad and Tobago. We were elated and excited to meet the Medical Director of the National Radiology Center in St James, Trinidad and Tobago; Dr Dylan Narinesingh. Dr Narinesingh is a leading Oncologist and highly revered and respected amongst his colleagues. Upon meeting with him and explaining to him the ethos of Beauty With a Purpose, he immediately agreed to be part of our project team but more so he introduced us to Dr Vanessa Harry, Leading Oncologist at the San Fernando General Hospital and Dr Stacey Chamely, President of the Medical Board of Trinidad and Tobago.
These outstanding medical professionals were the foundation of Trinidad and Tobago’s Beauty With a Purpose Project. Dr Vanessa Harry explained that there was not enough education amongst the nation’s women on cervical cancer since it is one of the few types of cancers that can be prevented, detected, treated and cured. She explained that in rural Trinidad and Tobago, few women know what a pap smear is or has ever had one performed. She explained that it broke her heart to have patients come to her when they recognise some irregularities within their bodies or have pains and even bleeding. She remarks that in most cases such as these, the diagnosis is so grim, it’s like passing a death sentence.
Dr Stacey Chamely raised the issue of prevention and women becoming proactive in the welfare of their health. In this regard, her strong minded personality challenged us to re-open the discussion on HPV and why the vaccine was important to our society in the long term. Again, upon consultation with the team it was decided that this project would consist of a three tiered approach: Prevention, Proactivity (Pap Smear) and Palliation.
Prevention, took the form of education, it was our duty and that of our delegate Miss Trinidad and Tobago to take to every platform available to raise awareness on the statistics on Cervical Cancer and the availability of services to prevent, detect, treat and cure the disease amongst women. Miss World Trinidad and Tobago became the official Brand Ambassador and took to the television and radio our message about cervical cancer. She further met with the most influential people within our country to gather their support about prevention especially using the HPV vaccine. Our team arranged several events including a Tea Party for Diplomats, Religious Leaders and the Business Sector to meet, greet and talk about the importance of girls getting vaccinated with the HPV vaccine. At this event, Miss World Trinidad and Tobago had the attention of the British High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, the German Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago as well as representatives of the United States Embassy in Port of Spain. Most importantly she also had the attention of the President of the Inter Religious Organisation and his executives. To further strengthen her cause, Miss World Trinidad and Tobago 2016, sought an official patron for her project in the person of Ms Stacy Roopnarine, former Minister in the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development.
The Project saw Miss World Trinidad and Tobago having lunch with His Excellency Tim Stew, British High Commissioner who committed to influencing British Corporations in Trinidad and Tobago to lend their support to this cause. She paid a courtesy visit to US Ambassador John Estrada and the Honourable Minister of Health, Terrance Deyalsingh. She also paid a courtesy visit to the two most powerful women in Trinidad and Tobago, the President of the Senate, Senator the Honourable Christine Kangaloo and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honourable Bridget Annissette-George.
There has been several meetings with the main support group for female cancer survivors in Trinidad and Tobago SWARA, where our delegate got the opportunity to listen and understand their experiences and stories. She also heard of their concerns and needs for which she committed to take up with Government. Furthermore, Miss World Trinidad and Tobago participated in a Youth Forum which was hosted at the largest shopping mall in South Trinidad where she was able to engage with students or various backgrounds and to encourage them to get vaccinated. The Miss World Team has met with the Inter Religious Organisation to discuss their concerns with the vaccine and to also discuss the stereotypes of the vaccine having a direct linkage with sexual activity. Other aspects of the project included Miss World Trinidad and Tobago taking part in Cancer Month activities with Corporate Trinidad and Tobago which included public screenings for cancer at several locations of Republic Bank Limited. She has also taken part in the annual Walk for Cancer Awareness and Prevention.
The final aspect of the project speaks about Palliative Care, which recognises the some women have received diagnosis when the disease has already ravaged their bodies. There is a young lady at the San Fernando General Hospital who is just 19 years old who is waiting for the doors of Heaven to welcome her and this is a stark reality for many others who have detected the disease in its advanced state.
The final aspect of the project lends support, for families and patients who are part of the hospice programme and who must face the heart breaking reality of death. This aspect of the project provided counselling, invites volunteers to provide spiritual, emotional and physical support to families who will lose a mother, daughter, wife, sister, aunt or grandmother. The opportunity for Miss World Trinidad and Tobago to physically embrace kids who are hurting, to say a prayer for families that are broken and to give a hug or whisper a scripture to a patient truly embodies Beauty With a Purpose and the ethos of this International Project.
The Miss World Trinidad and Tobago and her Team is proud to project this cause to the world and to lend support and encouragement to the many lives such a project will impact and save.