The first time I became aware about the concept of blood donation was in the first year of graduate college or 13th standard. A blood donation drive was organised by the biology department and it was publicised all over the campus. My friends and I had just turned 18 so we could decide for ourselves and were thrilled about it. A few classmates tried dissuading us by saying we would become thin, we would have less blood for ourselves or become sick. All of these were common myths which the biology department’s brochure was quick to bust. Donating blood that day was the most important thing we had done in our young adult lives and we felt great about it!
Not so great is the story of families who struggle to get donors or enough blood from blood banks in time for their loved ones. The government has tried to ease this situation with its own campaigns and drives at various levels including the e-Rakt Kosh initiative to provide information on nearest blood banks, etc. However, according to Raghav Baldwa, we need to sensitise more people towards donating blood. There has to be a steady supply to meet the relentless demand. He started Blood Sure, a Facebook based platform to organise blood donation camps, post alerts about requests for blood and has galvanised an army of donors across the country! He tells Networked India that the gratitude and heartfelt thanks he receives from families, due to the timely intervention of Blood Sure to organise donors, is his motivation to keep going.
Networked India (NI): What led you to conceive Blood Sure?
Raghav Baldwa (RB): I never faced any personal problem related to blood but witnessed a problem that people often face while arranging the right blood donor for their loved ones. Arranging for a donor at the last minute of any operation or surgery is a painful experience. People end up paying amounts as high as INR 4000 per pint of blood and up to INR 14000 for a single unit of platelets.
Over 50% of India’s population is fit to donate blood but still we are short by 3 million units annually. If only 10% of potential donors donate blood once in 6 months, it’ll be sufficient for whole south-east Asia.
NI: Are you the only founder? Is there a founding team? Give us a brief background.
RB: Yes, I am the only founder. When I started I was supported strongly by my family and my childhood friend, Rishab Bothra. He has donated blood over 10 times. Once he donated at 3:00 am for a 3 year old kid; his blood is A-ve which is rare.
Currently we have over 100 volunteers pan India, who helps us on social media to spread the message about any donation request in their cities and they also help me collect donors’ data for a database.
NI: You started Blood Sure in 2012. Tell us about the journey from then until now.
RB: The first donation camp I organized was in college, in collaboration with Thalassemia and Child Welfare group, an NGO in Indore working for thalassemic patients. Over 150 students participated. Out of this many were first time donors. It was a great feeling as I was able to motivate a lot of people to donate blood.
The journey as part of Blood Sure has been really motivating till now. My mission is to eradicate blood shortage from India by 2027, so that no one loses their life because of blood shortage. Everyday I receive over 30 requests, and I am glad that I am able to fulfill 85% of them via social media platforms.
My family has been a great support, overall 4 of us has donated over 135 times. Father 80+, myself 20+, mother 30+ and my sister over 6 times. There were many cases when if blood was not arranged at that moment, those people might have lost their lives
Till date, through Blood Sure, we have helped over 15000 people, organized over 35 blood donation camps and collected 4000 pints for thalassemic patients. We also have a strong community of 75000+ frequent voluntary donors.
NI: What if any were the specific challenges you faced?
RB: A major hurdle is to convince first time donors, they have a lot of misconceptions and myths which needs to be cleared out. Other than that each and every problem was easily resolved till now.
NI: How frequently do you organise blood donation drives? How easy or challenging is it to do so?
RB: There was a time when we organized 8 donation camps in just 45 days, there is no pattern as such. Moreover it’s an ad-hoc service, when any institution asks us for the same, we organize it. The support from nurses and various hospital staff has made the whole process very easy, though gathering people to donate sometimes is a tedious task.
NI: What kind of support did you receive from local governments, NGOs, activists, etc.?
RB: Sponsorships, quick permissions, cross promotion etc. are some such forms of support. We work closely with a number of NGO’s working in this field. Few of them are Thalassemia and Child Welfare group, LIC, various colleges, Rotary clubs, AIESEC, BIG FM etc.
NI: Facebook seems to be your preferred choice of social media platform where you post requests for blood in various locations. Are you looking at maybe having an app which may make your cause more mobile and accessible?
RB: Currently I am trying to crowdfund a robust platform through which one can find the nearest possible voluntary donor and donors too can register if they are willing to donate. Platform is in testing phase. I couldn’t gather any amount through crowd funding so I have put my savings into developing this platform.
Twitter is very useful when it comes to posting location based blood requests. Tagging influencers in that area also helps spread the word.
NI: Besides FB, how does someone in need of blood or interested in donating get in touch with Blood Sure? Do you maintain a record of donors, blood type received, etc. or is this left to the associated blood bank to maintain?
RB: Yes we do maintain record of our donors, data about when they donated last is hard to maintain. We maintain their blood group, contact details, address and if they have any diseases. Other tests and report are carried out and maintained by hospital where they donate blood. Blood Sure is primarily a platform connecting donors and those in need.
NI: What in your opinion can be done to spread more awareness about the benefits of donating blood. Many Indians still fall victims to myths, leading to the shortage of blood in our hospitals. How can this mindset be challenged and changed?
RB: Education and awareness drives are the best form to educate people. Social media campaigns, articles, etc too will help. I have recently collaborated with The Logical Indian and WittyFeed, we’ll soon be releasing a series of social media posts (articles, contests and videos) to educate and make people aware about blood donation (myths, misconceptions etc).