SFU Blood for Life is bringing students together over a shared interest in saving lives, one pint of plasma at a time.
Having established themselves on campus in spring 2016, this year promises to be a big one for SFU Blood for Life. The group has set goals to increase awareness, as well as access, to the process of blood donation.
As executive director Iman Baharmand explains, the club is looking to bring back the connection between the university and Canadian Blood Services (CBS), and remind students that blood is ‘in us to give.’
In the club’s early stages, Baharmand recalled that the majority of the planning was centred around a simple question: how do we bring blood donation opportunities to campus?
“The idea came when I was volunteering with the CBS in the wider community outside SFU, and I thought to myself ‘Why don’t we have a regular blood donation drive on campus?’ After that initial question, I began looking more and more into it, and we learned that there used to be regular donation drives on campus, where they would have these trucks and you could walk on and donate,” Baharmand added.
That founding idea has been the focal point for the club so far, as they work closely with CBS in their efforts to increase both blood donation and, more recently, stem cell donation.
According to the CBS, over 80 conditions can be treated with stem cell transplants, yet the register is hampered by a lack of ethnic diversity. With SFU’s multi-ethnic campus, it was perhaps no surprise that the Blood for Life team decided to step up to the plate, and help students get involved in the donation process.
“We recently held our first stem cell drive, which was a big success,” said Baharmand. “We’d aimed for registering 100 people, and got 147. I think the way we operated that drive was really important, in terms of making sure students have the knowledge they need and are fully informed on what they’re signing up for.”
Monique Sekhon, the club’s community director, agreed: “It’s really important to inform our candidates that they need to be committed if they’re going to sign up for this. In our spiel with them at the beginning, we give them all the information they need in relative layman’s terms so they can get a full understanding.”
Sekhon stressed how important asking questions is to the process, not only from the student’s part — but theirs as well. “We do our best to ask ‘Is this something you’re comfortable with?’ or ‘Do you understand you could literally be saving a life?’”
The passion with which Baharmand, Sekhon, and the rest of the Blood for Life team run the society is evident, perhaps never more so than through their enthusiastic explanations as to how they initially got involved with blood donation.
“Everybody has a different story — for some people it’s like a family tradition once you turn 17; for others, it’s a different story,” said Baharmand.
“Personally, it was in high school. I hadn’t really thought about blood donation, but we had an outreach event at my high school. [The volunteers] said, ‘Hey guys, if you want to donate blood, you get to miss the last block of school.’ So me and my buddies jumped in a car and away we went.”
For Sekhon, it was a slightly more circuitous route. “It’s always been ingrained with me by my family that giving back to your community is really important, and obviously blood donation is one way to do that. It kind of stemmed from that.”
With one highly successful event under their belts already, SFU Blood for Life has already made a name for themselves on campus. Having attracted significant interest at Clubs Days, what does the future hold for the club?
“We’re aiming to do at least one big stem cell drive per semester, so our next one will probably be in [the] fall,” said Baharmand.
“However, the best way to find out what’s going on is to head to our website — sfubloodforlife.com — or our Facebook page, SFU Blood for Life. Through any of our channels, there [are] ways to get involved in our events as either a participant or a volunteer.”
Baharmand hopes that as the club continues to grow, more students will get involved and have their say in the clubs’ development. “Any suggestions from the student body are totally welcome, too. We’re a club foundationally built upon collaboration and the sharing of ideas. There’s no sense of hierarchy.”
“Volunteering is a great way to get involved” added Sekhon. “If this is something you’re passionate about and can make time for, that’s great — come on out. A lot of people are really interested in the club so far, so the response has been great.”
It seems, then, that SFU Blood for Life is a club heading in the right direction. If you’re interested in donating, keep an eye open for the next campus blood drive.