“I am very happy to see my blood flowing out to help others. Every year, my school conducted blood donation drives but I couldn’t meet the minimum requirements. This year my weight finally crossed the minimum weight of 45kg. After experiencing my first blood donation, I can now convince others around me to become blood donors too.” 19-year-old blood donor Xie Ming Xuan happily expressed her thoughts during a quarterly blood donation drive held at Tzu Chi’s Jing Si Hall. A helpful person by nature, she expressed her dream to become a gynaecologist one day.
According to a recent HSA (Health Sciences Authority) survey, Singapore requires an average of 350 bags of blood for major and emergency surgeries, blood disorders and other blood transfusion needs. The only blood bank in Singapore exists in a state of constant preparedness, counting every precious second, to supply the critical blood transfusion needs of hospitals island-wide. But with an aging population, there is an even greater urgent call for young people to join the ranks of blood donors in Singapore. Recently, the Red Cross Society has placed publicity posters in many public places, urging the public to donate blood.
Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) has been partnering with the Red Cross Society since 2003 to conduct blood donation drives, and to date, there are seven designated locations for the drives. On 25th March 2017, a quarterly blood donation drive was held in Tzu Chi’s Jing Si Hall in Pasir Ris. A total of 102 volunteers were stationed in various areas of responsibilities, including reception, registration, signing up, consultation, blood donation and resting zones, to serve the people who came forward to donate blood. At the same time, volunteers were also stationed at six strategic spots around the Pasir Ris MRT station to promote the blood donation event, as well as provided shuttle bus services to ply between the venue and the MRT station.
Volunteer Kan Chee Heng, with close to ten years of volunteering experience, said, “The Red Cross once informed Tzu Chi that its blood drives have the greatest number of first-time donors. The volunteers’ active canvassing at the nearby MRT station has probably stirred up courage among the public to step forward and help save lives with their donated blood.”
We are All Equals, in Saving Lives through Giving Blood
“A cancer patient who couldn’t donate blood himself, was moved by the sincerity of the volunteers, and availed himself to help quench their parched lips under the scorching sun, and we appreciate his thoughtfulness. Many people responded to the calls of the volunteers and boarded the Tzu Chi shuttle bus to Jing Si Hall for their blood donation,” said Tzu Chi’s donating member, Zhang Hui Ting. Having consumed some TCM medicine against flu only two days prior to the blood drive, she was disqualified as a blood donor, but nevertheless donned the Tzu Chi volunteer vest and helped with promoting the event at the MRT station.
As a first-time volunteer for blood donation, Zhang had meticulously prepared a list of donors’ requirements, so that she could clearly explain the necessary details to the public. The Tzu Chi shuttle bus arrived every 10 to 15 minutes, carrying the hopes and passion of all the potential donors aboard. Meanwhile the volunteers cheerfully carried on their duties around the MRT station with bright smiles, in spite of the scorching sun.
“At 69 years of age, I’ve already donated 123 times, and I’ve experienced better metabolism after each donation. I also tried to take in more iron-rich food before donation. Perennial blood donation has also made me more acutely aware of the need to monitor my health and exercise,” said Paramilitary Singh (bottom picture), who had started donating blood from his NS days as a 21-year-old young man, and has progressed from donating once a year to once every 3 months. Though a senior citizen, his physical condition is still considered robust, and he continues to respond to the Red Cross Society’s SMS blood donation reminders.
Paramilitary added, “The first time I stepped into a Tzu Chi blood donation venue, it felt very different. There were so many volunteers taking part, right from the main entrance to the second floor, and even the third floor. There were so many smiling faces welcoming us. It is really important to make donors feel comfortable, so a conducive environment is utmost important; I will come back again for future blood donations.”
After every donation, volunteers respectfully offered cups of refreshing tea and biscuits to donors, and expressed concerns over their wellbeing. As such, every donor left the venue in high moods, and joyfully took the shuttle bus back to Pasir Ris MRT station. In the kitchen, volunteers even prepared healthy vegetarian lunch for the medical team and volunteers who were on duty.
Wished Fulfilled for a Young Soul
“A bag of blood could save three lives, I finally can donate. I will also encourage my classmates to join me in donating blood.”
16-year-old Filipina Amiga Anya had her wish fulfilled with the authorisation of her father, as she was still a minor. With much relief, Amiga added, “Just now my blood pressure dipped slightly, and the doctor allowed me to drink water before taking another reading. Today, my blood pressure finally exceeded 100, and my haemoglobin also exceeded 12.5 g/dl.”
As her family had always encouraged her to help others, it manifested within her young soul, a deep desire to save lives by giving blood. Four days prior to her 16th birthday, she registered her name for the blood donation drive near her home. As she didn’t meet the minimum age limit for blood donors then, that encounter only cemented her determination to go online and seek out any news about blood donation drives. It was because of her desire to help others that the banner advertising Tzu Chi’s blood donation drive caught her young eyes.
After her donation, Amiga said that when she was a member of her secondary school’s Red Cross Youth group, she had opportunities to visit the HSA office, and those visits had deepened her own understanding of various blood types: Among all the blood types, O+ blood group accounted for the majority of people, and can donate their blood to persons of other blood types; on the other hand, AB+ blood types are relatively rare, but can receive transfusion from all other blood types.
“We must donate blood while we are still able to. I recall the sudden death of an overseas cousin as he wasn’t able to receive sufficient blood for transfusion after an accident, and it has made me realise the importance of blood donation,” shared Mr Li Yong He, another donor who had received the SMS notice about the blood drive from the Red Cross.
Even though 44 of the respondents were identified as unfit donors, either having taken medication or travelled to countries that posed a high risk of infectious diseases, the blood donation drive still managed to collect about 100 bags of blood.
Looking back on the year 2003, when the SARS outbreak in Singapore led to a drastic drop in the blood supplies in Singapore’s blood bank, the Red Cross issued an emergency appeal for blood donation. Tzu Chi had actively responded to the call through organizing and promoting blood donation events, and its efforts over the past 14 years have helped save many lives. It even received numerous accolades from the Red Cross year on year, such as the “Blood Mobile Organizer (BMO) Gold Award”. The award recognizes Tzu Chi as one of the top 10 active organizers of blood donation drives in Singapore.