When her husband was brought to Delhi from Kolkata and admitted to the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), Medha (name changed to protect privacy), did not know what had hit her. Largely dependent on her husband and struggling with limited finances, she felt her world falling apart when doctors asked her to arrange for blood for her husband’s liver transplant. Worried sick about his illness and unable to figure out how to get more than 10 units of blood for such critical surgery, Medha also found herself completely alone in a new city with no support. She knew professional donors would charge money for such a precious resource.
Then a doctor informed her about BloodConnect, an initiative managed entirely by the students of the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi (IIT-D), Delhi University and IP University. “The moment we heard from Medha, we flashed an emergency call to our members and in a couple of hours 22 people had turned up at ILBS to donate blood,” says Sumanth Chinthala, a PhD scholar at the civil engineering department of IIT-D, and an active member of BloodConnect.
Medha’s husband life was saved, thanks to timely intervention by this youth initiative launched exactly three years ago by IIT-D students Nitin Garg and Utkarsh Kwatra, as part of the National Service Scheme (NSS), the students’ community programme.
Garg, now a mobile engineer in the US and Kwatra, now in his final year, mathematics and computing, wanted to do “something different”. They decided to get into blood donation activities after the IIT-D NSS team kept getting constant requests for blood from hospitals in the Capital. Chinthala, who was then studying for a masters remembers how they contacted members of their hostels and cobbled together a database of donors and pushed friends to go to the hospitals on weekends to donate blood.
Soon, a helpline was set up and the IIT students started reaching out to Delhi University and its colleges for expanding their reach. “Our aim was to ensure that bloodbanks were not exhausted. For camps we tied up with hospitals such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Deen Dayal Upadhay, Safdarjung, Ram Manohar Lohia, AIIMS Trauma, the Red Cross and Army Hospital,” says Chinthala.
Today, BloodConnect has a team of 30 individuals across seven colleges volunteering up to 200 hours a week. They include students from Jesus and Mary College, Miranda House, Sri Venkateswara College, Hans Raj College and IP University. NGOs helping them include Sapna and CanSupport. BloodConnect has organised 6000 voluntary donations through 57 blood donation camps and helped save over 15,000 lives (with 3000 donations last year). Members have reached out to over 40,000 people through activities such as street plays and awareness sessions.
Shweta Veeravalli, a student of economics at Jesus and Mary and a BloodConnect member, says she tries to get students to volunteer for camps. They do not have resources, offices or rooms and depend on just Rs. 2500 given to them after each camp by the Delhi State Aids Control Society.
Making time for a cause
It’s not easy to study and take time out for volunteer work. Since we are supposed to handle calls 24x7, I plan my day very carefully. When I walk from my hostel to my department at IIT-D, I use that time to talk to donors or volunteers. If I know I am busy with a presentation, I call up another BloodConnect member and ask him or her to take over in my absence. If your commitment levels are high, you can find time for anything