In Lebanon, an NGO has been working for nine years to raise awareness of blood donation in a country where access to hemoglobin donations has long been complicated. Its founder, Yorgui Teyrouz, recounts the story of a commitment that began with a fatality.
“Blood is a fundamental human right, perhaps even more so than water.” The head is slightly bald, but the beard is silky and thick. Behind his teddy bear draw, Yorgui Teyrouz is a committed man. In 2007, at only 21 years of age, this Lebanese man founded Donner Sang Compter (DSC), one of the most active blood donation NGOs in the Middle East today. The pharmacist by profession made this commitment out of necessity, in order to face a visceral problem in Lebanon.
An overly decentralized health system
“A friend needed blood for his grandfather. The latter died for lack of blood,” says Yorgui. I could not simply raise my hands with resignation and accept that every one of us was in this situation. No one is immune to this phenomenon, and every one of us may one day need to donate blood, whether to a relative or a friend.”
In Lebanon, the health system is highly decentralized, resulting in blood shortages throughout the country. “It is inevitably up to patients’ relatives and friends to find the units of blood and donors. It is not normal for people around us to die today because of the lack of access to blood,” insists Yorgui. There is not enough awareness, not enough organizations tackling the issue of blood donation.”
90,000 lives saved
It was to respond to this shortage that he founded his NGO, but “not at all as a project of association, strictly speaking”, according to his own admission. “It was rather just me, taking people’s names and blood types, and making lists on my phone,” he continues. Today, DSC has come a long way, literally.
The NGO has two huge branded buses, “mobile blood banks”, as Yorgui describes them: “We go to universities, municipalities, public spaces, schools and we organize blood donation campaigns. And we work with hospitals that manage logistics.” In parallel with its one-off campaigns, the association has set up a telephone switchboard for blood donors.
An award-winning NGO
In its nine years of existence, the NGO has registered 25,000 donors in its database, organized about 900 blood donation campaigns and has more than 700 committed volunteers. The result of this commitment: “90,000 lives saved”, according to Yorgui.
The other satisfaction of the thirty-three-year-old is the recognition his association enjoys. DSC collects awards, including King Abdullah II of Jordan’s award for innovation and youth achievement, gleaned in 2009 and accompanied by a $50,000 cheque that allowed it to move into its own offices, create a website, design pamphlets, banners and brochures.
Giving blood, a heroic act
On World Blood Donor Day, this June 14, the DSC buses leave on the road again to raise awareness of blood donation. And this is a special day for Yorgui. “June 14 is not World Blood Donation Day, it is World Blood Donors Day,” he said. I would also like to thank all those who donate blood. It is a heroic act with no counterpart.”
The man takes the opportunity to slip a message: “Today is a good day to start. Try to give your blood, and see what it feels like to give of yourself to help someone you don’t know.” A word to the wise!