My Social Experiment

‘It all depends on how civic-minded your friends are,’ was what my mother said when I first pitched my birthday blood donation campaign to her. I learnt the hard way that it was a little more complex than that. Project August was definitely an interesting one. Dare to fail, they say. So fail I did and boy, did I fail with grandeur.

Netizens on social media aren’t as fond of long descriptions as they are of pictures and photos so I thought I’d share my whole experience on a different platform- here. I never imagined I would be blogging about this and definitely not in this ‘experimental’ context. If you are curious as to what I’m on about, please read on.

At the end of last year, for reasons I won’t get into (that’s a whole other story for some other time) I received 2 pints of blood transfusion. Whilst bored stiff lying on a hospital bed, I made a pledge to donate blood and encourage others to do so. My target was August but when the time came, I was still not eligible to donate. Refusing to feel defeated, I came up with an idea to get as many friends and family to donate blood at any nearby blood donation centre. Selfishly, I used my birthday as the selling pitch to get everyone involved.

From mid July til mid August I sent out messages via text, e-mail and also in person explaining my pledge and campaigning for people to come forth and donate. I spoke to my friends in transfusion medicine to get the donation criteria for Malaysians and also did extensive research on places available to donate in Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and the UK, where most of the people I knew were residing. On social media, I put up the various incentives and benefits to donating blood. Every few days or so, I posted nearby locations and times for blood donations.

*All ‘tribute’ or ‘representative’ donations were accepted and I encouraged my target audience to bring others to donate- hoping for major domino effect.
**For the purposes of this write up, all promises or verbal pledges to donate blood which did not fall in the month of August were not included. This was not because they were not equally appreciated but purely because there was no way to guarantee they would come true.

It was odd to set an aim for something like this. But for numerical sake, I said twenty-seven (27) for turning 27.
In hindsight, that’s very optimistic. But you know me, I go big or go home.

At the end of August I managed to convince a grand total of… seven (7) people to donate blood at their nearest blood collection centre. That’s a whopping fail! It was a poor achievement of 26% of set target. (Re-sit would definitely be required!)

So after all that… here’s what I’ve learnt with regards to-

1.Healthcare services
a) Blood donation is a really big deal!
I could spend forever shoving the statistics at you but the gist of it is, our society requires blood for transfusion every single day and these include the most routine happenings- women post delivery, young people in accidents, babies with blood diseases, grannies with anaemia… the list goes on. The only way to make sure everyone gets the blood they need is through donors! The more I learnt the more crazy passionate I grew about this issue. (And we all know I don’t have a lot of passion to go around…).

b) It’s really easy to donate blood in Malaysia
Compared to donating a kidney, donating blood is so simple. It takes (max) half-an-hour. This includes a questionnaire about yourself and routine blood testing. Of course there are requirements to be met but no pre-registration or appointment- making was necessary in Malaysia, unlike Canada, Singapore, the UK and Australia. Even in the countries that did require appointments, location and sign-up times were easily accessible online.

c) Health awareness is shockingly poor

Being a healthcare personnel myself, I knew very little about blood donations prior to this. There are a lot of ‘myths’ floating about that discourage people from donating. A couple of my friends who were doctors were confused with the exclusion criteria and so many people just assume they shouldn’t donate for pre-existing conditions. The health ministry and those involved in public health need to do so much more to advertise and advocate blood donating. The facilities are there, they just need to educate, educate and educate.

-For example, almost every person I spoke to was scared of being poked with big needles and also feeling giddy after donating. What I kept reiterating was that they WILL NOT take your blood if you are already anaemic or hypotensive. The amount that is donated can be replenished by a healthy person within a week. You can get local anaesthetic before the cannula for drawing blood is inserted. I can confidently attest that all seven of my donors (and a couple really were needle-phobic!) did not experience giddiness or lethargy after donating.

2. Society
a) A lot of people are not eligible to donate

The exclusion criteria are surprisingly pretty extensive and even more so in some other countries. This is to protect both the blood donors and those receiving transfusions. Before I started I thought my pool of acquaintances were considered young, fit and healthy but many were not able to donate as they were on medications, post-partum or did not make the weight! If anything this made me even more determined to weed out the ones who can donate because it just shows they really need to!

b) There are SO many excuses
I won’t lie, there were a couple of times I felt a little unloved. Just a tiny tinge!
I had heard every excuse in the book from ‘rare blood type’ to ‘can I pledge my eyebrow threading instead?’. Of course some of them were legit but by the middle of the month I was a little disheartened.

c) They know but they don’t know
My rant about health education aside, the people I had pitched and campaigned to included very well-educated youths. It dawned on me there was really NO POINT of me trying to explain in depth how important blood donating was. Many of my friends were actually in the medical field. In fact when I first threw the idea around, I received so much moral support and praise for my efforts.

Unfortunately, the moment someone was not willing or unable to donate, the issue was quickly put to bed. So I guess what people didn’t understand was the whole point of the project. What I wanted was the awareness to propagate like a current. This was why I was incredibly proud when a couple of friends got someone else to donate on their behalf. i.e still spreading the campaign in other forms.

d) People are lazy!
I should really have named this ‘people are busy’ instead but you get what I mean. It’s difficult to meet the requirements if you are pulling all-nighters on call or meeting deadlines. I had a few participants who were easier to persuade because they were younger.

Perhaps that was because they did not have jobs, perhaps they were curious or perhaps it really is more difficult to teach an old dog new tricks. I also discovered that another huge deterrent from any additional effort was that I hadn’t provided any additional incentive. I didn’t have anything to offer them in return. Sure, you may get some tea or movie tickets (depending on where you donated!) but it wasn’t as if the blood they were donating was directly saving MY life.

A few people offered gifts or money instead but I had to decline. The only reason I went home from the hospital on time last year was because somebody out there got off their couch at home and chose to browse Instagram whilst they were donating blood instead. Apart from putting up the times and locations available, I even offered to drive or accompany people to nearby blood collection centres but didn’t manage to persuade any.

3. Myself
a) I am thankful
I realise over the last few paragraphs I sound really bitter. I’m not! I am so happy that a few people came forward to donate and some still plan to within the next few months!
Perhaps I have not mentioned enough that this was quite a big/ invasive ask for a ‘birthday present’ so for those who were unwilling or unable, I UNDERSTAND.

b) I became a keyboard warrior
Mid month I noticed I was going against all my principles and spamming people through all mediums. I had no shame- this was very unlike me. Who knew?

c) I am a terrible sales person
As evidenced by the results, I should really stick to my day job. When it looked like a sinking ship of a project, I scrambled around looking for new techniques to garner support. Unfortunately, I didn’t come up with anything innovative enough!

Outside Malaysia


Okay so *cringe alert* putting yourself out there and failing really isn’t as terrible as it is packaged. We should all try something new and who knows, maybe you’ll get a weird write-up out of it. I’d like to think that even if I failed in epic proportions, I did make a tiny impression around me, creating awareness about donating blood. I definitely learned heaps myself- and shall never belittle transfusion medicine!

Ultimately this task demanded pro-activity and I am so touched that a few heroes made the effort to donate for society. It made ME realise (and I’m sure if you believe in religion, nature, karma or whatever…) that if you’ve been gifted with the tools to do something good, you should try to do so before you are unable.

I still am keeping my personal pledge to donate once I am eligible and still hope another few donors come through within the next couple of months. Even though I’ve already crunched the numbers, a campaign for such a good cause can never be ‘over’. I honestly don’t even want to know who the blood goes to. Maybe it’ll help someone critically unwell or maybe it’ll help someone who was just unlucky, like me.

Thank you, thank you & THANK YOU to everyone who got involved, whether that be sending me the donation criteria, showing interest (even if that was skimming through Instagram story) and scrolling down to this point!


If you are keen to find out more or donate, here are some useful links

Blood donation centres Malaysia:

Blood donation campaigns Malaysia:

Blood & transplant NHS UK:

Australian Red Cross Blood Service:

Singapore Red Cross:

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