More than 125 local high school students led a stem cell and blood donor drive at the annual Surrey Vaisakhi parade this past weekend.
The crew of volunteers came from a number of local high schools, including Surrey’s Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth secondaries and in Delta, Burnsview and North Delta secondaries.
“It was a great event, we got quite a few sign-ups. Just over 700 blood donor sign-ups,” said Surrey resident Joban Bal, founder of volunteer youth group One Blood for Life that teams up with students to promote blood and stem cell donations.
“And we did about 120 stem cell swabs for the registry,” Bal added, explaining anyone interested was able to do a cheek swab on the spot at the Surrey parade.
Bal said another 150 people filled out surveys to help the organization gauge how it can better reach different demographics in the community.
“The reach is hopefully much larger than that. We got quite a lot of people talking and hopefully taking the message home,” Bal remarked. “We really wanted to target the South Asian population. This is a good opportunity, with about 500,000 people coming out to the parade.”
Bal said the organization wants to understand how to overcome language and cultural barriers to offer people “a better chance at a lifesaving match.”
It’s all part of the organization’s work to build a more ethnically diverse stem cell registry.
“We don’t want this to be a hurdle for any patient,” he added, noting the foundation reaches out to a variety of ethnic groups, attending other venues and events such as churches, Hindu temples and Latino festivals.
“We really try to get a good mix of ethnic diversity so we can help represent Canada’s multiculturalism in the (stem cell) registry.”
According to Canadian Blood Services (CBS), over 80 diseases and disorders can be treated with a stem cell transplant but fewer than 25 per cent of patients who need a transplant find a compatible donor in their own family.
Learn more about donating blood or stem cell transplants at blood.ca.