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UK Diaspora strengthens Jamaica’s 2015 blood drive

THE HANDOVER: The mobile blood collection unit is launched by (from left) Rudi Page of RAFFA International; Earl Jarrett, General Manager, Jamaica National Building Society; Dr. Veronica Taylor, Acting Director, National Blood Transfusion Service; Angelia Christian, founder, Angel Foundation; Dr. Fenton Ferguson, Minister of Health; and Lloyd Distant, Jr. Lieutenant Governor, Kiwanis Club of downtown Kingston

THE TARGET of collecting 30,000 units of blood in Jamaica this year is getting support from a variety of organisations based in the United Kingdom.

A key element of the blood drive is a mobile blood collection unit, which was donated to the Jamaica’s National Blood Transfusion Service earlier this month.

The only such vehicle on the island, it will provide access for blood donors who are not be able to go to the ten fixed blood collection centres, says Minister of Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson.

“Jamaicans in the UK Diaspora and friends of Jamaica came together to make this happen,” Minister Ferguson said at the first deployment of the blood collection unit on January 10 at the Jamaica National Building Society’s main office in Half Way Tree, Kingston.

“I want to thank Angelia Christian of the Angel Foundation and Rudi Page from RAFFA International for the tremendous work they have done in collaboration with our High Commissioner in London, Ms Aloun Ndombet Assamba,” he added.

Birmingham-based RAFFA was responsible for the acquisition of a mobile unit, said Paulette Simpson, Senior Manager, Corporate Affairs & Public Policy, Jamaica National Building Society, UK Office. She added that the Angel Foundation had worked with other groups such as Grace Foods UK and Jamaica Producers Limited to get the unit to Jamaica and hand it over to the people of Jamaica.

“Speaking as a Jamaican residing overseas, I can confirm to you that there is an urge by those of us aboard to be more than a major source of foreign income,” Ms. Simpson said at the January 10 launch ceremony. “Jamaicans in the Diaspora want to play an active role in making Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.”

SUPPORT: Jamaica’s Minister of Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, gets a Blood Drive decal from Paulette Simpson, Senior Manager, Corporate Affairs & Public Policy, Jamaica National Building Society, UK Office

Supporting the deployment of the mobile unit and the joint efforts to increase awareness among Jamaicans of the importance of blood donation, represents one way in which the Diaspora can assist in the island’s development, she stated. “The country’s medical system needs a greater supply of blood to cope with its normal case load of road accidents, maternity care and other medical emergencies.”

Ms. Simpson noted the role of that the Kiwanis Clubs of London, which partnered with local Kiwanis Clubs in to Jamaica, in agreeing to raise funds to support the day-to-day operations of the mobile unit.

Rudi Page of RAFFA said the fundraising efforts will be led by the Kiwanis Club of Brixton, where he, as a member, has been designated as the International Project Director for the Blood Drive. He stated that, “I am meeting with the Kiwanis Clubs of London on February 11 to agree on fundraising dates and commitments.”

The efforts of the various groups showed early signs of success, with some 58 units of blood collected at the Jamaica National’s Kingston office on the first day. The mobile unit will be rolled out to other Jamaica National offices across the island in the coming months, through that organisation’s partnership with the blood drive, and other organizations are already showing interest in partnering with the national drive.

“Now that we have this unit, we can go directly to the people, and they have clearly demonstrated today that they are willing to give,” said Beverly Johnson, Managing Director of JLB International, which is assisting in getting the unit across Jamaica. “It has been an absolute success and it shows that when we come together as a people, we can achieve great things.”

Units of blood collected in the drive were processed overnight and distributed into the country’s medical system the following day, the National Blood Transfusion Service reported later.

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