Blood Donation has been more often than not misunderstood (This video is an eye opener). We are a reservoir of life for someone in need. Blood donation helps in blood circulation and also replenishes our blood. Yet, there are misconceptions. Keeping in mind the hesitation and the reluctance towards blood donation, Friends2support, a voluntary organisation was started by Shareef and his friends, and the people running it has now increased to the 200,000 registered blood donors.
Please can you tell about friends2support (F2s) and how did it begin?
The idea of F2S is inspired from the organizational malfunctioning that currently, I witness within most of the blood donation camps and hospitals. Although, the incidences of such discrepancies are though innumerable, but few of them have left an impeccable mark on me which eventually lead to foundation of F2S.
In 2000-01, a heart-rending incident published with one of the dailies that triggered the idea of ‘F2S’. Kids of 12-15 years, who were playing cricket match in their neighborhood where lured by a blood bank to collect blood, in exchange of goodies.
Later, I read about another incident where rickshaw-pullers were offered alcohol to donate blood. Surprisingly, a rickshaw-puller goes to the bank fortnightly to donate pints. These incidents, though inspired the thought, but the initiative spark triggered when a close neighborhood friend succumbed prematurely due to excessive blood loss. None of my relatives, friends or neighbors had voluntarily stepped to donate to save the life.
When I re-look at these incidents, I feel more than being enraged; I felt the real causes to such incidents. It is not because of malfunctioning, or misconceptions or fear to donate but, lack of awareness among people lead to such loopholes which make donors and survivors a victim.
F2S, therefore launched as a vehicle not only to create a pool of donors for those who need it but also make an awareness among people to donate for a good cause, without being exploited or lured.
Friendstosupport (F2S) is a website where blood donors from all over the country voluntarily register and those in need of donors can find them online very easily. Shareef Sk, Naveen Reddy, Koteswararao. S, Phani Kethamakka and Murali Krishna, five childhood friends from Narasaraopet, Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh are the founders of Friendstosupport, a non-profit blood donation organisation which was launched in 2005.
We wanted to make a common man believe that there is something in this world for which you don’t have to fight; at least not anymore. This is why friendstosupport was started. The website allows any person to register and volunteer to be a blood donor. Those in need of blood can choose the city, the required blood group and select the kind of donor best suited for them.
What are the changes in the attitude of people after friends2support has begun?
We 5 members became the first donors, after which people joined in as we progressed and the group grew. We had to manage our IT jobs and the challenge of spreading the idea. We mailed whoever we knew about the site in our spare time, who in turn, spread it to other people. We held gatherings, approached people door-to-door and that was how F2S gained popularity.
The real task was to convince people about the idea. We faced a lot of discouragement initially. A thorough research had to be done on the myths and facts of blood donation, the present system of blood donation had to be studied and relevant data on blood donation needed cooperation from many people like medicos, etc. Finding the right person and convincing them to cooperate was a difficult task.
Ten years down the lane, though F2S still faces many challenges, I am glad that people have accepted the idea wholeheartedly and are coming forward to volunteer. We work on the principle ‘one should donate blood only when the need arises’ and, hence, are against blood donation camps which, we feel, lead to colossal wastage of blood. The donors on the website have registered with the sole purpose of serving the society. They donate blood out of their goodwill.
You are in the Limca Book of Records too. How did you manage to gather such a huge database?
Though it is tough to manage both my professional and NGO life, but when something becomes our passion and giving lots of satisfaction, we never feel stress or unhappy. I monitor it on day to day basis. If an emergency call comes, we can’t say at any hour of the day. We have to be in regular touch with the volunteers. We have a data validation team which calls every registered number once in a year to check on their availability. Hard work and dedication always pays. I use to travel to other districts and states to meet like minded people and motivate them to work for friends2support.org.
Usually, what are the apprehensions people face for donating blood and how did you overcome that through f2s?
Main problem is people think that they become weak if they donate blood. But that is not at all true, new blood will generate within 48 hours. And another major concern is with equipment. From the beginning we are concentrating on creating awareness along with running and developing our website and organisation. Slowly people understanding the process and importance of it. Now we can say there is good change in people’s mindset in voluntary blood donation.
Can you tell about the Short Film Competition?
Animated visual depiction creates an instant indelible impact on the literate and the less fortunate alike
• Friendly smart phones, and HD cameras are common site these days
• Thanks to the latest gadgets, that these days producing a high quality video is no more an expert’s domain
• Every day we come across many videos on web medium in different subjects. Giving these folks a subject might help them to come up with their innovative ideas
• Ahead of its 10th anniversary, www.friendstosupport.org is organising a national competition of short films and use them to reach every needy in any corner of the world.
• With this competition world get to see diverse ideas on various aspects of voluntary blood donation in various languages from all over India and other countries
• This is an opportunity for enthusiasts to showcase their talents and compete with others
The mission of Friends2support.org’s National short film competition on voluntary blood donation is to celebrate and encourage aspiring independent and student filmmakers and media enthusiasts.
So we have launched National/International level short film competition to promote voluntary blood donation. There is no entry fee and any one across the globe can apply for this. Winners will be awarded with $3500. National Blood transfusion Council(NBTC) and VELS Universiry (Chennai) also associated with us for this competition.
Actor Nani talking about Blood Donation:
Please visit friends2support.org/shortfilm for more details.
What are the future plans of f2s?
We have dream of starting a centralized toll free number office set-up with all the Indian languages support. So that even a lay man can get voluntary blood donor with a phone call.
The members in your core team?
Naveen Reddy, Koteswararao. S, Phani Kethamakka and Murali Krishna are my childhood friends who have been with me from the beginning. But now, all the 2,00,000 registered donors & all the state and district coordinators are our core team members. This is the secret behind friends2support.org success.
What is the difference between the blood in the blood bank and fresh blood donated?
In our opinion huge/mass blood donation camps should be stopped. At the same time we are not saying that we should stop all the blood donation camps. Collect blood in limited quantity as per present requirement and do not collect thousands of blood pints/units. We should not look for blood banks after collecting blood as they might not need it? we should plan something like how many blood bank require how many units and blood group wise. Accordingly the blood donation camp should be planned. For ex: if that particular city having 3-5 blood banks and their storage capacity is 1000 units, find out what is their present need and plan to provide the same.
If we collect huge number of positive groups, and there is no demand for such groups, after 29 days the entire efforts will goes off and the blood will be thrown in the drainage. So we believe human body is the best blood bank and you can donate 1-2 days before the surgery if you are not available to donate on the same day morning. Like that we can reduce the wastage in the noble cause. Thats the reason we are asking our voluntary blood donors, please register with our website, so that you will get call directly from the patients and you can able to continue this service till the age you can able to donate.
Five points every blood donor should keep in mind?
- Never expect return thanks from patients/patient attendees as they might be in tensed situation and we should understand them
- Donate blood for yourself first (It will be good if you donate blood regularly, so that new blood will be generated in your body)
- Donate blood voluntarily. Never encourage commercial donations
- Keep an eye on blood bank/hospital staff if they are taking all the safety precautions and not involving commercial things
- If you are not in a position to donate blood when you get call, kindly guide them to get alternate donor, as they might need your support in golden hour
For more details, check their website: friends2support.org