Calgary Muslim group rallies members to make life-saving, first time blood donations

A group of first time blood donors in Calgary helped fill a vital need on Victoria Day, highlighting the ongoing demand for a diverse range of blood products.

The group is a small Shia Muslim sect, with roughly one million members worldwide..

"Many of our community members aren't sure of the process to give blood and how they wanted to get involved," explained Ali Oonwala, a member of the Dawoodie Bhora community.

There are about 1.8 billion Muslims in the world and community service is a core principle of their faith

"We felt what better way to give back than by giving the gift of life," added Oonwala.

"We've got close to 50 people and 90 per cent of them are first time donors," said Francis Aranha, a community volunteer and organizer of the new donors, of Monday's turnout.

Canadian Blood Services says donations have been down since the pandemic started, but there has also been a steep drop in blood product reserves, falling roughly 25 per cent since April.

"One-in-two are eligible to donate, and what we're seeing is only one-in-81 does. So we need to bring in more new donors," says Lisa Castro of Canadian Blood Services.

It's important to have donations from a wide variety of ethnicities, as some blood products and treatments require close matches between patient and donor.

"In some cases, such as our stem cell patients, they need specific blood types to support them," says Castro.

To make an appointment you need to book online by going to Canadian Blood Services. The donation appointment takes about 30 minutes to complete.