Cancer support for women worldwide

Maida Vale man sets up cancer charity to help all women survive terrible disease, wherever they are from

WHILE there are numerous charities focused on cancer sufferers in the UK, one Maida Vale resident has launched his own which targets those worldwide who aren’t so lucky to have access to such support.

After working for different charities for the past six years, Justen Schafer Humes, who lives in Wymering Road, decided to set up the Odysseus Foundation to help women in developing countries suffering from breast and cervical cancer.

Working in a variety of countries throughout Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, the charity specifically targets socially excluded women in rural areas who would normally be unable to receive cancer support.

Mr Schafer Humes said: “There is a lot of breast and cervical cancer support but it’s all quite mainstream for large cities and up-and-coming areas.

“There are a lot of charities in the UK that do fantastic work but there isn’t that much for rural communities or immigrant populations.

“We don’t want to try to replace the great work they do but our mission is to give people opportunities and choices which I believe are basic human rights.”

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The charity has a number of projects to advance women’s health around the world with its main centre, Panagia Philanthropini, based in northern Greece.

Around 10,000 women receive free early breast and cervical cancer detection examinations per year at the centre while 15,000 more receive self-examination and educational information.

“One of our projects in Greece, for example, is we work with Iraqi refugees who are socially excluded because they don’t know the language and don’t have access to healthcare,” he said. “We bus the women from rural areas into the centre where we have doctors on hand to do screening.

“Then in some places in Africa, for example, it’s a bit different because we go into smaller communities and work with them and their own doctors. Their doctors aren’t trained to deal with these things so we train them up and support them.”

As well as being involved with cancer in a professional capacity, Mr Schafer Humes also has personal experience having suffered and survived testicular cancer in 2006.

“I was already working in the cancer world and the thing that gave me the strength to deal with it was having worked with people who didn’t have the very good cancer care that we have here,” he said.

“I thought if they can make it through it then so can I. I was very lucky with the support I had.”

In order to continue its programme to cater for 75,000 women at its Greece centre for the next three years, the charity is currently embarking on a public appeal to raise �1.2million – a sum that equates to �16 spent on each woman.

“The funding has gone well so far – we have got some from companies and some from other foundations,” said Mr Schafer Humes.

“The main thing to do now is try to get some public awareness that we can do so much good work for as little as �16.”

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