Yorgui is creating and growing a nation-wide citizen-based movement that is able to systemically build peace through the mobilization of blood donors across Lebanon.
The New Idea
Yorgui is focusing on injecting desperately-needed blood into the medical system in Lebanon by mobilizing the community around the joy of giving. By initiating different campaigns nationally and internationally, he has been able to spread joy among volunteers and blood donors that exceeded 18,000 donors so far including students and employees of NGOs and corporates.
The blood donation model in Lebanon is complex since it is based on a replacement system, meaning that patients can only receive blood if they are able to solicit donations from family and friends. Yorgui is concentrating on transforming the replacement system into a voluntary system, by altering the mindset of both; the people and government. He is now working with the government to make sure hospitals implement the “new Lebanese blood donation guidelines” set by the Ministry of Health. He also runs Radio/TV awareness and advocacy campaigns to keep the issue at the forefront until a functioning voluntary system is fully accomplished.
Yorgui is leveraging on the movement to instill broader peace and sharing throughout the society. He is highlighting the joy of volunteerism in attempt to resolve conflicts that prevail in societies due to ethnic and religious sectarianism. Both, the lack of blood and prevalence of conflict not only in Lebanon, but also across MENA, enable Yorgui to scale his work across the region.
In Lebanon, death can still be attributed to the lack of blood stocks in hospital blood banks; especially patients with rare blood types. This is a result of the outdated replacement system relied on in Lebanon, which involves hospitals asking patients in need to solicit donations from friends and family. Relying on the outdated replacement system forces blood seekers to spend hours contacting friends and relatives to find potential donors using mobile phones and social media. Due to the unavailability of blood units in hospitals, most find themselves lost and hopeless. Even those, whose strong connections facilitate the searching process, rarely find sufficient quantities.
The Lebanese government does not prioritize this issue, resulting in a lack of intervention to improve/repair the system. Hence, hospitals choose to follow different guidelines, believing those to be the “optimal” treatment strategies. Guidelines are described as different criteria for the selection of blood donors; where they decide to accept or reject donors based on their gender, age, medical background, travel history and other important factors. The World Health Organization adopted a resolution encouraging countries to have an all-voluntary, unpaid blood donation system with the aim of establishing it worldwide by 2020; this is a government persuasion tool to change the system, which may lead to an immense reduction shortage of blood transfusion shortages in Lebanon.
Despite the existence of 116 blood banks in hospitals and 13 Red Cross blood banks across Lebanon, it is still facing a blood shortage of 70%. 140,000 blood units (450ml each) are required yearly to meet the Lebanese population’s demand, though blood banks cannot supply the adequate amount due to regulations and guidelines. Even though the Ministry of Health was involved in this issue in 2015 and was successfully able to unify one guideline to be followed by all hospitals, most hospitals rejected it and continue to follow their own, leading to the same issue. It is only when disaster strikes that blood banks are filled. On the contrary, at times of “less traffic”, blood banks are empty.
Hospitals refuse voluntary blood donors for several reasons. Lebanon doesn’t have a centralized blood bank, and hospitals are forced to operate under a minimum stock system, because blood units expire and must be discarded after 42 days. Hospitals are not used to see voluntary donors, and when they do, they directly assume that donors are donating to get their blood analyzed as opposed to having a humanitarian purpose.
According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health profile, Lebanon contains only 4.5 million citizens. However, due to the on-going crises occurring in Syria, the country was forced to absorb a 25% increase (1.5 million Syrian refugees) in its population. In addition to Syrians, there are 450,000 Palestinian refugees, according to UNRWA “United Nations Relief and Works Agency”, heavily burdening Lebanon’s government, because it must integrate these refugees in the Lebanese community and meet their basic needs. The outdated replacement system is even more challenging for refugees, since they are not accompanied by family and do not have access to blood units, when in need.
Furthermore, blood transfusions are an integral part of the modern health care system that have the potential to save millions. WHO argues that 1% of the world population regularly donates blood and in order to have a proper blood supply, the percentage should be increased to 4-5%. Although countries such as Egypt and Jordan have government-managed blood collection systems, they lack a strong culture and functioning system of voluntary blood donation. This increases the vulnerability of the collection systems in place due to the lack of culture amongst people to support the sustainability of systems.
Yorgui is motivated by three main goals. Firstly, Yorgui is mobilizing the community by raising awareness on the joy of giving. He is also unifying blood donation guidelines across hospitals. Lastly, he is aiming to transform the replacement system into a voluntary model. With his proactive approach, Yorgui is working on uniting volunteers to approach a large number of blood donors through campaigns organized in universities, cinemas, malls and public places, a call center and a mobile application with the support of health NGOs, hospitals, the Red Cross, Ministry of Health, as well as the parliament, private banks, and corporate CSR programs.
Yorgui involves volunteers, blood donors, hospitals, NGOs, the Red Cross, and university students to promote his campaigns. Campaigns take place in several popular places; from malls to universities; he also makes use of holidays such as Halloween, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day to spread his message in innovative ways to reach more donors and volunteers.
Yorgui established a vast network of hospitals across Lebanon. As a result of his broad network, he was able to partner with 31 different hospitals across Lebanon. He was also able to partner with the American University of Beirut, Hotel Dieu de France, and Makassed hospitals. Hospitals are responsible for the analysis of received blood units, which is then supplied to patients in need. In addition, Yorgui is planning to partner with the Red Cross to facilitate the process of blood storage, compensate for the lack of hospital staff and the unavailability of operations’ employees after working hours.
Yorgui was able to reach 60k students through his work with universities, which plays a major role in youth engagement. Yorgui initiated the DSC clubs in various universities such as University of Saint Joseph, where young people serve as volunteers and run events themselves. They are responsible for organizing and decorating the set-up for blood drives that take place on university campuses, arranging conferences that serve the cause and highlight the importance of bringing joy and being part of humanitarian acts. In addition, competitions between teams from different universities are created, where 20 questions related to blood donation are asked and the winning team receives an award.
A total of 587 blood donation campaigns have been launched since 2011. Donors are reached through the DSC network, a mobile application, and call center. The mobile application simplifies the blood donation process in 4 ways: (1) mediates between blood seekers and blood donors through mobile app requests, (2) sets a reminder to donate, (3) notifies users when donors are needed, and (4) sends general updates about campaigns and the impact of DSC on individuals to keep people engaged. This mobile application follows the “AABB” (American Association for Blood Banks) guidelines, which follows an ethical approach by not mentioning any of the names of neither seekers nor donors. Yorgui runs a call center that facilitates the contact between blood seekers and donors, as well as head-hunts volunteers to participate in blood donation campaigns. Yorgui collected 4500 blood units and saved 10k patients in 2016 solely through call center efforts.
The exponential growth of DSC is reflected in the amount of yearly funds received as a result of good communication and strong belief in the cause. Yorgui fundraises through several institutions such as Banks in Lebanon and Syria, and was able to fundraise $100k for his idea. In 2013, Yorgui and DSC became part of the “IFBDO” The International Federation of Blood Donor Organization representing Lebanon to exchange experience and secure funds. Also, Multilaterals such as the Global Blood Fund, whose main aim is to distribute resources from Europe to countries with poor health system, partnered with DSC in 2014 to give them a fully equipped mobile blood bank offered by Scottish blood centers.
DSC also works with private companies such as nightclubs and CSR departments of companies. Companies provide the space for running a campaign on their premises and give Yorgui a fund starting from $500 that could be topped by the multiples of $500 like $1k and $1.5k, for example. Shifting to night clubs, Yorgui has been partnering with Sky Bar since 2011, the most famous club in Beirut, by agreeing to raise the price of the entrance ticket from $50 to $80 on a Monday in the year, resulting in a fund of $100,000 for DSC, and $10,000 for Sky Bar for the procurement. In addition, Yorgui sustains an additional annual revenue of $25,000 by selling bracelets in different bookshops such as Malek bookshop. Thanks to these campaigns, 12k blood units were collected in 2016 from 160 campaigns, which is an immense improvement in comparison to 2012, when he gained 793 blood units from 13 campaigns. DSC was able to save 58287 lives through 587 campaigns.
Yorgui’s campaigns transcend beyond Lebanon. One of the campaigns titled “el hal b ideik” [Arabic for “the solution is in your hand”] was a billboard campaign in different cities around the world, namely Dubai, Germany, New York, Brazil, Toronto and Sydney. In partnership with a creative agency called JWT in Lebanon, Yorgui was able to mobilize 200 volunteers, mainly Lebanese expats, in six cities to rent six billboards for seven days, publishing a message with the hash tag of the campaign. To build hype, people in those cities took pictures of the billboards and posted them on social media. Yorgui synchronized the takeoff of the campaign across different cities. He then promoted the campaign on different media channels; such as TV during prime time news on LBC, Al Jadeed, MTV and Future TV, radio such as Sawt El Mada and Sawt El Ghadd, newspapers such as Al Nahar, Al Safir, Joumhouriya, Al Diyar and Al Balad, and blogs such as Ginosblog and Blogbaladi, reaching 1 million viewers in total. The aim of this campaign was to (1) lobby the government of Lebanon and hospitals to acknowledge the urgency of the lack of voluntary-based system for blood donation and (2) motivate Lebanese people to become advocates for voluntary-based blood donation systems and not to rely on NGOs to do so. This campaign enabled Yorgui to start a partnership with the Red Cross and meet the Minister of Health, as part of lobbying for the enforcement of a law to unify guidelines across all hospitals in Lebanon and implement a voluntary-based blood donation system.
Yorgui is working on scaling his work as follows; on one hand, he is starting to organize blood donation campaigns during football matches, the first of which was on the 28th of April between the old, renowned players of Barcelona and Real Madrid with 45,000 spectators. He will be using this day to create a blood drive to spread the idea of unity between the audiences of two rivals in the stadium, where he will spread the idea of “Blood for Peace” by engaging both parties. On the other hand, he joined the event organized by the International Federation for Blood Donor Organizations “IFBDO” on the 14th of June for “Blood Day”, which will be attended by registered NGOs around the world. Yorgui pitched his idea about blood for peace to encourage the NGOs to unite different sects of each country to donate blood and support a cause. Yorgui started implementing this in Lebanon since the country has 18 state-recognized religious sects.
Yorgui was born in Lebanon and was brought up in a supportive family that could help him achieve his goals and embrace his ideas. He went to the College of Notre Dame De Jamhour from 1990 till 2003, and majored in biology. His college experience was insightful and exposed him to many opportunities and activities such as scouting, religious movements and many other social aspects. He also studied Pharmacy in the Lebanese American University. Growing up, he served in the Scout movement for 15 years, where he learned about community service, responsibility and commitment. In 2003, he served as a rescuer in the first aid team of the Lebanese Red Cross for a whole year. Working many hours, he got the chance to practice his first aid skills. In addition, he also volunteered with the Youth League of Lebanon, where he headed the project development department, organizing projects.
Also during this time, in May 2006, the grandfather of his friend suffered from a severe heart attack. He was in dire need of 5 units of AB- blood, one of the rarest blood types in Lebanon and the world. After searching everywhere among families and friends, they were unable to find the needed blood, which is when it all started. Yorgui and his friend decided to form a small network of blood donors to help the patient to no avail. Their efforts were not enough to save the man’s life.
This life-changing experience motivated Yorgui to work on a network to recruit blood donors in 2006 in attempt to save lives and help them live healthier lives. Yorgui started operations in January 2009 and got the government’s approval for his organization, Donner Sang Compter (“DSC”), in May of 2010.