Sastry Dwivedula is Chief Financial Officer and Partner at Xtal Biostructures Inc. He is also the founder of Manava Seva, an organization that works to bring cancer detection and treatment to women in rural India. The organization is holding a Bharatanatyam Dance on February 20, 2016 at McCarthy Middle School in Chelmsford by Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant. He talked to Lokvani about the organization.
What motivated you to start Manava Seva?
I have been contemplating for quite some time to start a non-profit and grow it to serve the under-served in India. I meant it to occupy my retired years and fulfill my urge to give back to the community.
The realization that cancer awareness was quite wanting in India, even in educated families, who were fortunate enough not to have had first hand experience of a close relative going through such an ordeal. In Rural India, it is even less to non-existent. My brush with the disease as my wife went through a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent full complement of the treatment convinced me that cancer screening to detect cancers at early stages was the only way to provide rural Women in India a fighting chance at a cancer-free life.
There are many organizations working on Cancer services. How is yours unique?
Maanavseva's objective is adopting villages and doing 100% screening of the women and maintain the screenings per the national protocol on such screenings as against conducting random camps. This requires educating the women, bringing awareness of the benefits of early detection, persevere and conduct the screening, administer vaccines where appropriate, provide hand-holding support for any with a cancer diagnosis and see them through their treatment.
The difference to me the specific focus and a boundary for the targeted goal. We will adopt one village at a time, cover 100% of women in terms of their needs to be educated, aware, get screened and be proactive for early stage detection.
How big is the problem that you are trying to address?
Quite huge, really.
No one gets preventive screenings until symptoms manifest. by then the cancer might have spread, making any cure next to impossible and deteriorating the quality of life for the victim and her family.
There is a tobacco problem - which is consumed in several forms, the worst being smoking in the most raw form, with the burning end in the mouth! This causes oral cancer.
Hygiene lapses and other factors cause Cervical cancer.
Though statistics show that the Breast Cancer incidence is less when compared to the world statistics, it hits them at a younger age than the rest of the world and the death rates are higher due to lack of early stage detection.
What major challenges do you encounter in doing the screenings?
Reluctance to get screened!
They do not want to hear the 'C' word.
They do not want to fix anything that is not broken and they do not know that things can broken without their knowledge.
While, Oral and cervical cancers may be addressed by going in to the villages, conducting door-to-door campaigns, Breast Cancer screenings are most difficult.
They do not want to travel to where the Mammogram facilities are available - and they are not easily available. Most diagnostic centers who boast various diagnostic equipment do not have Mammogram facility as it is not commercially feasible and not routinely called upon.
What is your grand vision for success?
Our short term vision is to emulate a model to impart education, create awareness about the 3 major malignancies in rural women in India. The model will document the various challenges and solutions to overcome those challenges through involvement of local service organizations.
Our interim vision is to buy a state-of-the-art Mobile Van for Mammography and other screenings. This will reduce the reluctance from the rural folk and motivate them to accept screenings and cover multiple villages. We would like to run with a couple of villages in each phase, standardize our processes and create a consistent and repeatable model for achieving sustainable 100% screenings in villages .
Our grand vision is to offer the well established, sustainable model to others who come forward from different districts/states and also solicit 'adoption of a village' by large corporations.
Can you tell us about your upcoming fundraiser?
Maanavseva has completed a year and is organizing the fund-raiser event on 20th February, 2016 at McCarthy Middle School in Chelmsford. Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant, who is a renowned Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi Dancer and Choreographer and has received many awards, including, Kalaimamani from the Government of Tamilnadu, Kala Ratna from the Government of Andhra Pradesh and has also been nationally recognized for her dedicated work in the field with a 'Padma Shri' award, will be performing 'Thyagaraja Ramayanam'. She herself is a Breast Cancer survivor and a huge advocate of early detection and determined fighting against cancer. Her talk at TED India, 2009 is ranked among the 12 Incredible TED Talks on Cancer.
The event starts at 5:00PM and will include a silent auction and dinner. Admission is free but registration is required. Maanavseva is a 501(c)(3) Charity and contributions are tax deductible as per IRS guidelines.
How can people help?
People can help in many ways. They can make generous donations, spread the word, buy auction items, sponsor screenings and volunteer both in US and in India. Wealthy donors can come forward to adopt a village in India. Maanavseva is a budding organization with big objectives and it needs all the help it can get.