SHARJAH, With the participation of over 2,000 people, H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, the wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Founder and Royal Patron of Friends of Cancer Patients, FoCP, today, launched the region's first ever "Relay for Life" at the American University of Sharjah, a 24-hour walkathon that aims to generate publicity and funds for the fight against cancer.

Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, who is the International Ambassador of the World Cancer Declaration for the Union for International Cancer Control, UICC, and International Ambassador for Childhood Cancer for UICC, participated in the first lap of the walkathon with cancer survivors, highlighting the importance of raising awareness about the disease and the necessity of screening for early detection, the most important factor in survival and recovery.

Organised by FoCP, a non-profit organisation that supports cancer patients and their families, the inaugural event in the MENA region commenced at 16.00 hrs today and will finish at the same time tomorrow.

Relay for Life began in the United States, US, in 1985. Organised by colorectal surgeon Dr. Gordon Klatt, the first ever event raised US$27,000 for his local cancer charity.

Addressing the participants, their supporters and all those involved at the start of the walkathon, Sheikha Jawaher thanked everyone for their time and effort in participating in an important and noble cause.

"Today, we have come together to continue a story that began in 1999, when we launched Friends of Cancer Patients, which is dedicated to standing by cancer patients and lending them a helping hand. Hard work and dedication have characterised our journey of 18 years, during which we have grown to become what we are today, an institution that has brought the world's largest cancer fundraiser, the Relay for Life walkathon, to the MENA region for the first time. Every step you will take today will add to the flame of hope, making it burn higher and stronger in the lives of those for whom we are all here today," Sheikha Jawaher said.

"We are here today to send a message of hope and highlight our eagerness to uphold every chance of survival. Cancer statistics show that 1.4 million people are diagnosed with cancer worldwide each year, and there are 8.2 million cancer-related deaths. However, figures also show that cancer is a preventable disease, and 30 to 40 percent of cancer deaths could be prevented, and a third of cancer cases are treatable through early diagnosis and treatment," she stated.

"Therefore, we stand here today to send a message to the entire world. We call on the international community, both individuals and organisations, to unify their efforts, so together we can open a door of hope for cancer sufferers and their families, who live with the disease or are affected by it every day," she added.

While addressing the participants about the Sharjah International Laboratory, Sheikha Jawaher stated, "The Sharjah International Laboratory, which operates within the framework of the Crick Research Centre in London, is a scientific beacon that illuminates the way for many cancer patients worldwide, and gives them new hope with every new discovery, a fruit of their daily efforts at the lab."

During her speech, Sawsan Jafar, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of FoCP, said, "We gather today in Sharjah to continue this journey started in 1985 by Dr. Gordon Klatt, and for the first time in the Middle East and North Africa, in partnership with the American Cancer Society and under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi. From this beacon of education, which has nurtured generations, we 'Relay for Life' to stand alongside every patient and proclaim our unity. With you, we take steady strides through this great community effort while sharing, with its participants from around the world, the messages of hope, faith and support."

"Relay for Life is more than just a fundraiser, and it is more than just an event. It is a collective community. A community of survivors, a community of caregivers, a community of individuals and corporate citizens from all walks of life, who are here today to say, 'enough!' Enough pain and suffering from cancer. We have come together to celebrate life. Celebrate the lives that we have saved because of our scientific and medical discoveries. We have come together to remember. Remember those we have lost due to this horrible disease. We have come together to fight back against cancer, and empower ourselves with knowledge and a resolve to never stop fighting. Notice that there is no finish line on this track today. At least not yet. Because there is no finish line until we find a cure. We are not going to stop. And that is the symbolism of walking together for 24 hours," said Bob Chapman, Managing Director of Global Relay for Life.

Dr. Bjorn Kjerfve, Chancellor of the American University of Sharjah, welcomed the hosting of Relay of Life at his institution by stating, "We, at the American University of Sharjah, are proud to be a part of this campaign and to affirm our full support by hosting this important event on our campus. Since its inception, the university has been committed to forging strong partnerships with organisations such as Friends of Cancer Patients, which play such a key role in helping to provide solutions to the challenges facing society."

Attending the launching ceremony alongside Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi were Hessa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development; Sawsan Jafar; Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, President of Zayed University; Bob Chapman; Dr. Bj?rn Kjerfve; Reem bin Karam, Director of NAMA; Jassim Mohammed Al Bloushi, Chairman of the Sharjah Tatweer Forum and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Rubu' Qarn Foundation; Nada Askar Al Naqbi, Director-General of the Sharjah Women Sports Foundation; Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of the Sharjah International Children's Film Festival and the FoCP's Board of Directors; Khawla Al Haj, Head of the Friends for Diabetes Society; Amna Al Shanasi, Manager of the Sharjah Ladies Club Branches, and Iman Rashid Saif, Director of the Health Education Department at the Supreme Council for Family Affairs.

Also attending were Noha Mohammed Safar, Vice President and Member of Board of Trustees of FoCP; Adalat Nakash, FoCP Honorary Member; Mira Taryam, FoCP Board Member; Hamid Jafar, Founder and Chairman of the Crescent Group of Companies; Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Sports Council; Varouj Nerguizian, Executive Director and General Manager of the Bank of Sharjah, and representatives from the Belgian Council and the Philippine Council.

During the Relay for Life launching ceremony, a documentary video was screened about the overall preparations for the walkathon and another that revealed the vision of the event, as well as its history, its impact on the fate of cancer, and its support for patients and survivors.

Over 40 entertainment activities are also taking place around the clock during Relay for Life, including live bands and DJ performances, comedy acts, poetry readings and storytelling sessions.

Founded in 1999, FoCP has provided medical treatment and financial and moral support to over 3,500 cancer patients and their families. Those wishing to join with the organisation and participate in the first-ever Relay for Life in the MENA region should head to the American University of Sharjah today, where activities will be leading up to the grand finale at 16.00 hrs on Saturday.

Source: Emirates News Agency