A group of university students from Delhi have set up a network of committed blood donors among college-goers to address blood shortage in the city

Shweta Veeravalli’s perseverance is a subtle hint at the organisation, she is pitching for. Not the one to be discouraged by standard non-committal replies, this young Delhi University student calls, mails and drops messages religiously for days. BloodConnect is an organisation made of up students like her — young, restless and committed, working towards resolving the problem of blood shortage in India.

According to WHO data of 2010, India annually requires 11 million blood units but in that year only about 8 million units of blood requirement was met, creating the need for organisations like BloodConnect.

And they do exist in huge numbers. BloodConnect is one of them but yet treading a different path on account of a different model. “Most of the existing initiatives have a helpline. We, too, have a helpline but we also organise blood donation camps and outreach programmes. We are looking at 360 degree solutions and in five years, we want to do away with the helpline,” says Utkarsh Kawatra, a final year student (Math and computing) at IIT-Delhi and co-founder of BloodConnect. Having completed three years, the organisation recently organised its 58th blood donation camp.

BloodConnect was founded in 2010 by Nitin Garg, who got a request for blood from a friend. Going door-to-door in IIT-Delhi where he was a student looking for donors, Nitin was surprised to see the positive response and that’s when the idea of having an organisation involving and targeting the youths germinated. With a core team of 30 individuals from different colleges of Delhi and several working as volunteers, BloodConnect is an out and out students’ show.

Even the database of donors they have created in these three years comprises students. “The person has to raise the request online on our website www.bloodconnect.org and we get going. As soon as I get the request, I check on the availability of volunteers and ask him or her to take it forward. Any given time, the volunteers are ready with a list of committed donors who will not refuse. The only condition is that the person placing a request has to pick up and drop the donor back home. For women donors, we ensure additional safety and proximity to their residential area,” says Sumanth Chinthala, a research scholar at IIT-Delhi who runs the helpline.

Though so many committed youngsters on board is a positive thing, it has its own set of problems. Since all of the team members are students, it calls for detailed planning and coordination amongst the helpline members. Sumanth knows the schedule of all the volunteers and allocates tasks accordingly. The team of volunteers are mentored by the BloodConnect team members.

The volunteers are capable of handling tough situations because of close co-ordination and the list of dedicated donors that each one of them have at any given time. Sumanth informs that BloodConnect has received 450 helpline requests till date.

“Last year, we successfully handled a case where the patient who was due for a liver transplant needed 22 units of blood. It was a big amount. We had one week to arrange it,” informs Shweta, adding that they mostly work with government hospitals.

In times of crisis like outbreak of dengue cases, the organisation moves into super active mode. “We handled several requests when dengue had wreaked havoc in the city. And platelet donation is even more complicated because it is time consuming. Dealing with students we need to ensure they have ample time,” adds Shweta.

Another challenge, she states, is to ensure that the donor has not consumed alcohol in the 48 hours prior to donation.

Having got a foothold in Delhi, the organisation intends to replicate this model in States facing blood shortage like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana where four cities — Kanpur, Lucknow, Jaipur and Chandigarh — have been prioritised for expansion.