Positive voluntourism:
donate blood



Want to give back on your travels? Have you thought of donating blood?

Globally, students, tourists, expats and community members are seeking ways to make a difference and give-back to communities. Unfortunately many of the volunteering opportunities available across Southeast Asia involve short-term, unskilled volunteering with children and are often geared towards the ‘volunteers experience’ rather than the needs of the community. For example, orphanage tourism or teaching an english class at a local school part of an organised tour.

Rather than uplifting and empowering vulnerable children and families,  volunteering ‘opportunities’ established for commercial intentions can promote situations of marginalisation for children and families at the cost of  ‘good intention’ projects targeted to volunteers.

ChildSafe teamed up with Sarah Firth, Programs and Operations Manager for humanitarian organisation VOICE in Phnom Penh for our first guest blog on how to support children by becoming a volunteer blood donor through her personal journey.

Donating in the Kingdom of Wonder

Becoming a volunteer blood donor is not only a safe, ethical and responsible way of giving back to the broader community but is a positive alternative to harmful profit-making voluntourism schemes. As a volunteer blood donor, you do not come into direct contact with the child or patient requiring the blood transfusion. This is not only important for child protection reasons but it also protects the privacy and human dignity of the person receiving the transfusion. Donating blood with reputable organisations such as VOICE will ensure your volunteer blood donation is going directly to a child/ young adults needing ongoing life-saving transfusions.  

Donating blood can be an exciting and an equally nerve-racking experience, particularly for those donating for the first time. The first time I donated blood was in early 2018, at the National Blood Transfusion Centre (NBTC)  in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. As an Australian, I didn’t anticipate that this would be the first place that I would donate blood or would continue to donate every four months.

What motivated you to donate blood in cambodia?

Two words: Thalassaemia Major. I moved to Phnom Penh in late 2017 to begin working with VOICE  to support socially and economically marginalised children and families where many of our beneficiaries are impacted by the genetic blood disorder called Thalassaemia Major.

On average children living with the condition need life-saving transfusions every 3 -4 weeks. But there is a severe shortage in national blood supplies and their family members may not be  eligible donors as they may also be living with the disease.

Due to this shortage, most patients rely on volunteer donors to replenish the blood stocks to receive lifesaving transfusions.

Without access to treatment, a child diagnosed with Thalassaemia Major is unlikely to reach 15 years old. 

Whether you are an expat living abroad or passing through on a quick trip you have the ability to make a direct, lifesaving impact to children’s lives as a blood donor. All you need to do is meet the following criteria:

  • Age: 17 to 60 years old
  • Weight: 45 kgs or more (100 lbs)
  • Health: Blood donors must have good health and must not have an infection that can be transmitted through their blood

Is it safe to donate blood abroad?

Donating abroad may seem risky to many people. But rest assured there are many reputable facilities you can access – such as the National Blood Transfusion Centre (NBTC) in Cambodia.

Yes, donating blood at the NBTC is completely safe. New, sterile disposable equipment is used for each donor, so there’s no risk of contracting a bloodborne infection by donating blood. NBTC follows best practices including a screening process, quick blood pressure and blood prick test, consultation with a doctor and of course a delicious drink and selection of pastries to enjoy once your donation is complete.

Some people feel afraid that they only have a limited amount of blood and donating blood is bad for their body. This is not true. Your body keeps on producing blood and will replenish the blood taken for the donation quickly afterwards.

Still want to know more about the process? a Voice blood donor volunteer recently made this short video explaining what to expect at NBTC: www.voice.org.au/giveblood 

become a volunteer blood donor to make a life-saving impact during your travels.

Next time you’re travelling through Phnom Penh choose to donate and encourage your  friends and family to do the same. If you are based in Phnom Penh, you could also consider hosting a community blood drive with your colleagues.

If you are interested in volunteering as a blood donor in Cambodia, please contact sarah@voice.org.au for more information. To find out more about Thalassaemia Major, please go to: https://www.voice.org.au/accesstohealthcare

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