Today we are featuring Waithera Kabiru, digital marketing manager for Coca-ColaCentral, East and West Africa. Kabiru, who is based in Nairobi, Kenya, is a self-proclaimed "Digital Diva, Soccer Mum and Proud Breast Cancer Survivor." After successfully battling stage-three breast cancer in 2013, she founded the Second Chances Foundation, an organization that raises awareness and funds for cancer patients in Africa.

We caught up with Kabiru to hear about the unique way her foundation raises awareness of Breast Cancer in October through an initiative called #PinkFridayKE.

WHAT IS #PINKFRIDAYKE?

I wanted to execute a fun way to raise awareness about breast cancer in Kenya. This is because most breast cancer cases in Africa are diagnosed at a late stage due to lack of awareness or access to good healthcare. When you talk about breast cancer in our community, it’s usually a grim or dark story. Yet there can be positive or optimistic stories of cancer if detected early and successfully treated, like my case was.

Every October since 2013, we have activated #PinkFridayKE (KE is short for Kenya) by encouraging friends and colleagues to wear something pink. While doing this, The Second Chances Foundation reminds the public about the need for breast cancer screening for both men and women, young and old. During this time, we raise funds for patients struggling to meet their medical needs. We assign “fashion police” in the workplace to fine staff who do not adhere to the pink Friday dress code. All fines collected go into the #PinkFridayKE kitty.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO YOU?

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, I realized a few things. First, I had never taken the initiative to do any cancer screening, and there was very little or almost no public information or awareness of cancer in Kenya. Secondly, cancer treatment is expensive globally and many Kenyans of all social economic backgrounds often lack good treatment due to limited finances. I was fortunate that I had access to world-class healthcare in Kenya, India, South Africa and the U.S., but this was only possible due to the support I received from The Coca-Cola Company and from family and friends who fundraised to ensure I got the best treatment. After getting a clean bill of health, I knew I had to give back to the community what I had learned and experienced and support those who are not as fortunate as I am.

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE #PINKFRIDAYKE INITIATIVE?

In the first year that we activated #PinkFridayKE, we had overwhelming support from online influencers and media in Kenya who amplified the campaign. Coca-Colaassociates in the Kenya office wore pink on Friday, and we had lots of fun! We managed to raise funds to support a young Kenyan actress who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the early stage. The funds we raised enabled her to undergo surgery and radiation, and she is now fully cured!

HOW DO YOU STRIKE A BALANCE BETWEEN YOUR WORK FOR COKE AND YOUR FOUNDATION?

When Wendy Clark, resident, Sparkling Brands & Strategic Marketing for Coca-ColaNorth America, visited Nairobi a couple of years ago, I had the privilege of meeting her as she gave a talk about her career. Wendy shared her experience on work/life integration in such a profound way that stuck with me! She talked about always being in the moment or being present when doing something. For example, when it’s time to do homework with my children, I totally dedicate that time and put away my phone or any distractions. With this in mind, I make time for different activities in my life, from work and family, to working in the community. Sometimes it is challenging to ensure we put enough time to the work of the foundation, as all the directors and members are volunteers. We currently do not have capacity to hire staff. Despite that, the work I put into the foundation is very fulfilling because I do not see it is a sacrifice or a chore. Off course, I wish I could put in more time to community work, especially speaking publicly about cancer, but I also have to ensure my family and work priorities are met.


WHAT HAS BEEN A BIG HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CANCER AWARENESS INITIATIVES?

In August 2015, I was asked to share my patient success story to the First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, Her Excellency Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta, who is the patron of the Forum of African First Ladies against Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer. At this event, which was graced by government officials and key stakeholders in the healthcare sector in Kenya, I was emphasized the need for public awareness on cancer and public private partnerships in healthcare service delivery.

HOW CAN READERS DO THEIR PART?

Every Friday in October, wear something pink and post it on social media with the hashtag #PinkFriday. While you are at it, go for cancer screening, and take a friend or relative along with you! To learn more or support The Second Chances Foundation, visit our blog or find us on Facebook at SecondChancesFoundation or on Twitter @SecondChancesKE.