Keerthana Mannayam wins the ‘Buddy for Life' contest for spearheading an awareness campaign and voluntary blood donation drive in her school
In a society that is largely unaware of the concept of voluntary blood donation, to motivate one person to donate blood is in itself quite a big deal, let alone more than two dozen people. But that's exactly what 17-year-old Keerthana Mannayam did and that too with élan. The sprightly teenager, a Plus One student of Cotton Hill Higher Secondary School in the city, spearheaded an awareness campaign and a voluntary blood donation drive in her school, where she got 40 of her teachers and parents of her school mates to sign up to donate blood. For her efforts Keerthana emerged as the winner of the ‘Buddy for life' voluntary blood donation contest organised for school students by Terumo Penpol as part of its observation of National Blood Donation Day.
Keerthana's campaign was held the following day on October 2, where 28 people donated blood; the others had to opt out due to health reasons. “Being a National Service Scheme volunteer, I've always been interested in social service. Conducting voluntary blood donation campaigns is one of the easier ways to do social service, and a vital one at that. For the past three years or so, I have been actively trying to promote the concept of voluntary blood donation. I didn't expect an award, I'm just doing what I think should be done for the good of society,” says Keerthana.
The irony is that Keerthana herself can't donate blood because she is underweight – the minimum weight for a blood donor being 45 kg! Perhaps that's why the youngster did a lot of groundwork to get this particular drive up and running. With the help of her teacher Sajeena and her fellow NSS volunteers, she organised an awareness session to sensitise teachers on the need for blood donation. Keerthana made sure to invite blood donor motivators to the event to share their experiences with the teachers so that the latter could overcome their misgivings on blood donation. She later distributed IEC (information, communication and education) material related to voluntary blood donation to the teachers and promoted the blood drive through posters, pamphlets and regular announcements.
Of course, all of this had its challenges, she admits. “The key to voluntary blood donation drives lie in awareness campaigns. I have found that there are quite a number of people who are ready and willing to donate blood. It's just that most of them – not even older people – are aware of the process of voluntary blood donation nor of the dire need for it. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and is something that I hope to change,” says Keerthana, who lets us know that she is “looking forward” to conducting more such drives in the near future.