A Journey Around the Vampire Cup
A Journey Around the Vampire Cup
By Ilyes Ben Salah, Public Health Chairperson of ATEP-Tunisia 2019-2020
Blood donation is one of Tunisia’s major concerns as it is a lifesaver for a lot of patients.
Unfortunately, Tunisia is facing a shortage in blood units, for the average needed blood units per year is 220.000 units while the average number of units collected is about 180.000 and it is considered a big challenge to achieve self-sufficiency.
When the Tunisian Pharmaceutical Students Association ATEP was established in1985, it has adopted the blood donation cause to contribute by organising blood drive campaigns each year in Monastir and has been evolving ever since.
This year, the Public Health committee decided it’s time to take this project to the next level by establishing a blood drive strategy that allows it to reach potential donors in rural areas otherwise neglected, getting other associations to acknowledge its importance and making each drive unique and memorable for our members and the public.
The first step was to set the objectives for the whole mandate:
1. The audience: Naturally, the aim is to get to each and every potential donor. However, a study made by the Tunisian blood bank suggested that young adults aged 18-35 are not donating at all, making them the primary focus.
- As mentioned earlier, targeting rural areas previously neglected is a focal point that the PH committee focused on, thus reaching a healthier population that is able to donate. (e.g. Kef, Sidi Bouzid)
- In Tunisia not all blood banks are able to organise an outdoor campaign. For that, contacting them since the beginning of the year made it possible to select and divide each region of Tunisia. (e.g. the Military blood bank, Monastir’s blood bank)
3. Collaboration: Only a few Tunisian NGOs are mobilising their resources to contribute to this specific humanitarian act. For instance, two NGOs are currently tackling this issue. In line with this, ATEP decided to share the experience with multiple associations to get them to organise their own blood campaigns. (e.g. Associa-med tunisia (IFMSA), Red Cross, Rotaract)
4. Sponsors: Either with financial help or by advertising the action, sponsors were a huge help to perfect the project and for that, a detailed sponsoring file was created by the PH committee.
5. Media: All of ATEP’s interventions were used on the media to share the locations and dates of upcoming campaigns with the audience, emphasising on the role of citizens to become regular donors.
To improve and meet these objectives, the PH committee kicked off the project with an opening party on Halloween which had three major objectives: Firstly, the party was an opportunity to invite different NGO’s to participate and take action. Inviting them to the party created a beneficial atmosphere to discuss the project.
Secondly, going as far as planning an opening party for this cause shows an engagement towards the sponsors and ATEP’s members.
Thirdly, raising funds enabled us to go further with the project. Getting creative was the last step to prepare for the blood drives. From previous experience, convincing the public to donate was a difficult task. Therefore, getting creative with other activities during the drive was a way to persuade people to participate. For instance, a teddy bear was used as a mascot so participants can take pictures to pass the time while waiting for their turn to donate. Flash mob, music, quizzes, and souvenirs such as pins and donation tickets were some of the other ideas the PH committee came up with for the Vampire Cup.
Making each campaign unique in its own way aimed not only to rally members to take part in it and enjoy themselves while working, but also to facilitate delivering the information to the audience.
Thanks to the members’ hard work and dedication, nine blood drives were perfectly held in Monastir, Tunis, Ariana, Sousse, Ben Arous and Kef this mandate.
While conducting a big project like this, it’s only normal to face some obstacles:
- The major inconvenience we encountered was Tunisian blood banks only allowed a maximum of 50 units per campaign. This limit made it a lot difficult to maximise the number of blood units collected. To compensate, raising awareness was highlighted and the PH committee acted as a mediator between the donors and the blood bank in Monastir by fixing appointments for those who wished to donate on other days.
- Since our college is located in Monastir which is a little far from the capital Tunis, the committee faced a lot of troubles regarding transportation so not all the members were able to be present during the drives.
- Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, six campaigns in Nabeul, Sidi Bouzid, Kef, Kairouan, Gafsa and Sfax under the Vampire Cup Break theme were cancelled. These actions were planned to take place on the 26th of March during our spring break. Even though the pandemic changed our plans, another plan was put into action; one final campaign was held in Kef with the Red Cross before switching to online awareness and posting the address and numbers to contact the blood banks for donations and an online form where donors can sign up and get their appointment.
During such times, it is undoubtedly a challenge to organise a blood drive, but it is not impossible. We advise fellow associations to try and be there for their respective countries, get in touch with the Red Cross organisation, or switch to online awareness by setting up online forms with the blood banks for individual donors. It’s time for us to step up and help in any way we can.
ATEP-Tunisia will continue to work on the Vampire Cup project and will always try to improve it, and we hope someday, our work will help Tunisia reach its self-sufficiency regarding blood units.
I look back at the times where all of this was just some scrambled words on a piece of paper, when it looked like a lot of work and that it would be nearly impossible to accomplish. I look back at all the meetings we had, the endless nights we spent working and planning, and the time we spent on the field. I look back at the joyful memories, the laughter, the jokes, and the happy tears we shed and think, "Yes! We did it and it was worth it". Special thanks to each and every person who contributed to make this dream a reality.