About RRI

Our Mission

Reach to Recovery International’s mission is to:

  • Unite organisations throughout the world which support individuals affected by breast cancer, including their families, in order to share ideas and best practices;
  • Disseminate valuable information to support individuals affected by breast cancer throughout the world via bi-annual conferences, our website, our e-newsletter, and other forms of worldwide communications; and
  • Assist our Member Organisations in achieving their goals of:
  • Improving the quality of life of individuals affected by breast cancer,
  • Providing psychosocial support to individuals affected by breast cancer, either through group meetings or activities or one-on-one peer support provided by carefully trained survivor volunteers,
  • Advocating on behalf of individuals affected by breast cancer,
  • Providing peer navigation to individuals affected by breast cancer.

Our Guiding Principles

Breast cancer is a global issue. The latest evidence indicates that over two million new breast cancer patients are diagnosed worldwide each year. For many individuals and their families this is a challenging time, and it has been those individuals who have highlighted the necessity of appropriate supportive care following a diagnosis and treatment.

The Reach to Recovery movement evolved from the simple and universal principle that an individual who has lived through breast cancer and freely gives time to help another individual facing the same experience is a valuable source of support. Today, Reach to Recovery International serves as an umbrella organisation for other organisations that work in their own countries or communities to improve the quality of life of individuals affected by breast cancer, including families, through peer support, advocacy, and patient navigation. RRI is committed to assisting its members through a broad range of services offered worldwide.

RRI’s Guiding Principles and Membership Code of Conduct.

History of Reach to Recovery

Terese Lasser started the Reach to Recovery movement in the United States in 1953. Following her own operation for breast cancer, she persuaded the medical community that patients could benefit from the opportunity to talk with someone who had been through a similar experience. Reach to Recovery grew to be widely accepted and highly regarded by patients and doctors around the world.

In 1974, Francine Timothy and the American Cancer Society introduced Reach to Recovery to Europe. By the time she retired as chair of Reach to Recovery International in 1994, Francine Timothy had seen the programme spread to many countries throughout the world. She was also very successful in convincing medical staff to open their hospitals to Reach to Recovery volunteers.

Read more about Terese Lasser and the history of RRI in the May 2013 edition of Bloom e-newsletter.


Past Presidents

  • 2013 – 2022: Cathy Hirsch (USA)
  • 2007 – 2013: Ann Steyn (South Africa)
  • 2003 – 2007: Ranjit Kaur (Malaysia)
  • 2000 – 2003: Lisa Hoie (Norway)
  • 1998 – 2000: May Ryan (Ireland)
  • 1996 – 1998: Betty McCrum (Northern Ireland)
  • 1994 – 1996: Gungerd Lemon (Sweden)

RRI Board of Directors and Officers

Leonie Young, Brisbane, Australia – President
Cathy Brice Hirsch, Towson, Maryland USA – Vice President and Treasurer, Immediate Past President
Ranjit Kaur Pritam Singh, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Past President
Karen DeSantis, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware USA – Secretary
David Hirsch, Towson, Maryland USA – Legal Counsel
Stephné Jacobs, Johannesburg, South Africa
Joanna Grecos, Athens, Greece

RRI’s Regional Representatives

Sofia Abreu, Portugal
Bertha Aguilar, Mexico
Carol El-Jabari, Palestine
Joanna Grecos, Greece
Cathy Brice Hirsch, USA
Stephné Jacobs, South Africa
Ebela Mbanugo, Nigeria
Catherine Ngaracu, Kenya
Faresi Takawira, Zimbabwe
Ellen Utne, Norway
Leonie Young, Australia

Special Advisors to RRI

Professor Jeff Dunn, AO, Sydney, Australia
Ann Steyn, Cape Town, South Africa, Past President