Building a Lifeline

What initially motivated you to start Jiboner Jonno Rokto?

In the 90s, it was extremely difficult to obtain blood for patients. Due to the lack of options, people had to rely on preserved blood, and there were even stories of people having to buy blood. The challenges of acquiring blood were significant and often posed a threat to life. We established Jiboner Jonno Rokto in 2013, but my journey began two years earlier. While I was in school, I noticed the growing use of social media, but unfortunately, most people were using it for the wrong reasons. I noticed that finding rare blood types, like O Negative, was particularly challenging. When I saw posts on Facebook from people desperately in need of blood donations, I thought, why not create a Facebook community solely dedicated to blood donation to help the masses?” That marked the starting point of Jiboner Jonno Rokto. Our main emphasis was to find donors and act as a link between them and those in need, with the goal of eliminating the risks associated with using preserved blood, which comes with various health complications. 

How did you overcome the social stigma surrounding blood donation in Bangladesh?

Our main goal was to encourage people to donate blood. We started by educating them about the benefits of blood donation and worked hard to help them overcome their fears of blood and syringes. Gradually, we began creating and sharing testimonial videos of our donors on social media. We published over 100 videos showcasing people’s experiences with blood donation. Our aim was to challenge stereotypes and eliminate the social stigma associated with it. This strategy proved successful, as word of mouth became a powerful tool in influencing others. Additionally, we conducted numerous awareness campaigns to address negative perceptions about blood donation, such as the misconception that it would make people weak or sick.

We strive to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their location, have access to safe and timely blood donations.

How has utilising social media platforms like Facebook contributed to the growth and effectiveness of Jiboner Jonno Rokto in connecting blood donors with recipients during critical moments?

Utilising social media, specifically Facebook, has been essential to our growth and effectiveness. Initially, we established our community through Facebook, enabling us to quickly and efficiently reach a large audience. We regularly posted in various Facebook groups, simplifying the process for individuals to request and donate blood. From 2013 to around 2018, social media served as our primary tool for connecting donors and recipients. We created a lively online community that facilitated immediate responses to urgent blood requests, especially for rare blood types. Our efforts on Facebook assisted us in educating the public about the significance of blood donation and dispelling numerous misconceptions surrounding it. While we have developed our own donor database and expanded our offline operations, social media continues to be a critical component of our strategy. Our public Facebook group remains active, primarily catering to emergency blood requests. The platform continues to play a vital role in our mission by keeping the community engaged and well-informed.

How has your organisation responded to the challenges it has faced, and what measures have you implemented to ensure the integrity of your services?

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a significant challenge as people were reluctant to donate blood, even our regular donors. However, we overcame this problem gradually and steadily. Our moderators and volunteers frequently encountered challenges, such as miscommunications and managing the expectations of patients’ families. I remember an incident at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital where I accompanied a first-time donor. We discovered that the patient’s husband, who was her only support, had no knowledge of hospital procedures or blood donation forms. We assisted him with everything. This is just one of many stories where our volunteers went above and beyond to help in emergencies. To address issues of fraud, particularly those targeting individuals from outside Dhaka who often paid for blood without receiving it, we started placing posters around hospitals to raise awareness and provide our contact information, although maintaining these posters was challenging.

How has the growth of your organisation impacted your work, and what are your future plans for national expansion?

Since our establishment in 2013, the acceptance of blood donation has significantly increased, and we have gained a substantial number of volunteers. Our organisation, originally a small initiative, has steadily grown over the years. We operate remotely, but we are planning to establish a physical office in the near future to enhance coordination of our activities. Our future plans are ambitious. We aim to engage influential individuals such as doctors and public figures to raise awareness about blood donation. Moreover, we are focused on expanding our reach to every corner of the country, particularly remote areas where social media and mainstream media have limited influence. We strive to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their location, have access to safe and timely blood donations. This national expansion is a critical aspect of our strategy to establish a strong and dependable network of blood donors and recipients throughout Bangladesh.