Kaylee Huynh, left, and Amrit Hundal are encouraging peers at Alberni District Secondary School to donate blood at a Canadian Blood Services clinic, Jan. 14-16. (MIKE YOUDS/Special to the News)

Port Alberni high school students recruiting younger blood donors

Students from ADSS educating peers about myths, facts of blood donation

BY MIKE YOUDS

Special to the News

A blood donor clinic at the Italian Hall later this month may have more high school students lining up to do their part for the greater good.

That’s what Kaylee Huynh and Amrit Hundal hope to see after a month of promotional outreach at ADSS. Enrolled in Anne Ostwald’s social justice class, the two Grade 12 students have been spreading awareness among their peers.

“We’d never heard that you could donate blood in town,” Huynh said as the pair worked at an information table in the school’s atrium before Christmas, trying to attract new donors.

Canadian Blood Services offers regular blood donor clinics in Port Alberni every 12 weeks or about four times a year, said Gayle Voyer, the agency’s territorial manager. The next clinic is scheduled for Jan. 14-16, 3-7 p.m.

A key point made by the student advocates is the age of eligibility for giving blood. Many of their peers seemed unaware that they become eligible at age 17 to donate blood providing they meet height and weight requirements.

“We’ve found that people are surprised that they are able to donate,” Huynh said.

The blood supply has to be continually renewed and there is a constant demand due to emergencies such as car accidents, Hundal said.

“If you’re able to generate blood and give it to somebody, I don’t see why not.”

Voyer has been collaborating with the students, providing them with information and materials such as brochures to spread the word. They’ve so far set up two recruitment booths and plan to return to the ADSS foyer in January to do another. Naturally, once they’ve passed an eligibility quiz, new donors have questions.

“It just feels like a little mosquito bite,” Hundal assures them.

The chief criterion for such projects in Ostwald’s class is that they benefit the community in some way. Hundal and Huynh will be assessed on the outcome.

“It’s basically follow-through and planning,” Hundal said. “Did we meet our goals?”

Voyer said there are multiple criteria that determine blood donor eligibility and that these conditions are continually changing. She encourages donors to pre-screen themselves online by taking the quiz at blood.ca before they go to donate. It’s also best to make an appointment before visiting a clinic, she said. Donors can do that at blood.ca or through GiveBlood, the app available for free from Canadian Blood Services.

One among every two Canadians is an eligible donor, Voyer noted. Despite that, only one in 60 Canadians gives blood, representing about four percent of the population.

“The key to that is really giving people the right information,” she said. “There is always new information. You might be surprised to find that you actually are now eligible.”

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