بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
“..And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and transgression…..” – The Holy Qur’an 5:2
In this divine ordinance, mankind has been instructed to helping the deprived in the society and helping in righteousness.”1 In fact, we see that there is a plethora of traditions and narrations about helping others, good deeds and compassion that places these qualities as a consistent theme within the teachings of the religion of Islam.
For me, this theme formed an intrinsic core value at an early age and shaped my ideals that lead to my choice of career and future aspirations. You could say that this belief in helping others in society became a life goal, and my passion for the sciences supported me in achieving this.
Volunteering with the Imam Hussain Blood Donation Campaign (IHBDC) and therefore offered the perfect means to combine my love for science and hope to give back to society. The campaign started in 2006 and it is the first campaign within the UK which aims to increase the number of regular blood donors from Muslim communities. With the lack of blood donors from ethnic minority backgrounds, IHBDC aimed to address this situation in a simple way but with life saving implications.
I started volunteering as the North West London ambassador in the summer of 2014; my role was in preparation for the month of Muharram when I would be responsible for organising blood donation sessions in dedicated venues across NW London. It was an exciting experience and although it was hard work, I gained a useful insight into some of the barriers within our community in regards to blood donation. Having approached and spoken to many people directly, I realised how much misinformation was still entangled in this subject.
What I found particularly interesting was how IHBDC worked in collaboration with NHS blood and transplant (NHSBT) for a common aim, to save lives. It is amazing to see how moral qualities such as kindness and generosity can transcend differences to bring people to work together for a common goal.
At the time, I was working as a DNA analyst at a forensics lab which involved genetic testing of crime scene samples to contribute to the justice system and public safety. Although I loved the job, the shift work was draining! I then moved to work as a Healthcare Scientist for NHS blood and transplant. And thus the link was made.
There were multiple reasons for choosing this job and field. The organisation was one I was familiar with through working with IHBDC, having seen the work they did I was genuinely interested in helping them in their objectives. Their core value of ‘saving and improving lives’ was one that touched close to home.
I joined at an exciting time during a 3-year project to introduce Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) DNA testing to tissue type bone marrow donors and cord blood units. Essentially, it is genetically testing donor bone marrow and cord blood DNA, which is stored on the British Bone Marrow Registry (BBMR) and will be used to match patients when the need arises.
For those that are unfamiliar with bone marrow and cord blood, here is a short bullet point description:
Although I was involved with blood donation during my volunteering, there is also a need for donors from ethnic minority communities in regards to stem cell donation. Where there is a 90% chance of finding a suitably matched bone marrow if you are Caucasian, this is dramatically reduced to 40% or less if you are from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic community (BAME).
To my pleasant surprise in my first couple of months of working here, I discovered that NHSBT had their own team dedicated to addressing the issue of a lack of BAME donors. I volunteered to become a donor ambassador with NHSBT and after an interview stage I was accepted. My volunteering work at IHBDC proved to be very helpful at this stage. To become a fully trained donor ambassador, I attended 3 days of extensive training in Birmingham which consisted of interactive sessions and lectures from professionals in the field.
I felt that was a perfect way to complete my training and to develop both my confidence and my abilities to encourage members of my community to become donors (whether that was for blood or bone marrow). With the newly gained knowledge and skills given by NHSBT, I could not only contribute so much more to IHBDC, but I could also widen my scope to other BAME communities.
There have been BAME organisations (Including Islamic ones) that have requested donor ambassadors to give talks on the importance of blood/bone marrow donation which I have volunteered for; it has been a great experience to use my knowledge and past IUS experience to spread awareness on this important and life saving topic.
“Whoever steps forth for helping others, has the reward equal to a striver in the Holy War.” – Imam Ja’far al Sadiq (as)5
If you are eligible to donate blood, please see here to find out more and sign up: https://www.ius.org.uk/giveblood/
Written by Jasmine Rizvi – IHBDC Volunteer
وَمَنۡ أَحۡيَاهَا فَڪَأَنَّمَآ أَحۡيَا ٱلنَّاسَ جَمِيعً۬اۚ
1 – An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Qur’an vol. 4 by a group of Muslim scholars, under the direction of Ayatullah Allamah Al-Hajj Sayyid Kamal Faqhih Imani
2 – https://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/1.htm
3 – http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bone-marrow-transplant/Pages/Introduction.aspx
4 – http://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/news-and-media/news-articles/news_2015_02_16.asp
5 – Wasa’il-ush-Shi’ah, vol. 8, p. 586