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Buddhist monks play major role in blood donations

By Ye Lwin
July 19 - 25, 2010
A Buddhist monk donates blood at the National Blood Centre
A Buddhist monk donates blood at the National Blood Centre in Yangon last month. Pic: Ye Lwin

YOUNG Buddhist monks are playing a key role in bolstering the city’s donor blood supply by participating in regular blood drives and acting as on-call emergency donors.

According to Dr Thida Aung, a senior consulting pathologist at the Yangon General Hospital’s National Blood Centre, about 80 social and religious groups are involved in donating blood, including 25 large groups that give blood on a consistent, four-monthly basis.

Large blood donor groups include the Dhammaduta, Shwe Parami, and Mingalarbuha religious associations.

Ashin Kundala Linkara, a 24-year-old Buddhist monk from the State Sangha University in Yangon, said that relatives of patients often come to monasteries to seek help when blood is urgently needed.
“We never hesitate whenever they ask for help. We donate blood to save lives, regardless of their race or religion,” he said.

“This is something we can do for people. As of today, 19 people from our university have donated blood – 17 were individual donations, while two were as part of blood drives organised by Dr Chekinda.”

Dr Chekinda works as a professor at the International Therevada Buddhist Missionary University in Yangon.
He also runs the Dhammadhuta Association, which started organising blood drives in 2006 and garners between 350 and 600 units of blood (157.5-270 litres; one unit is 450 millilitres) every four months – half of which is supplied by Buddhist monks, and half by the general public.

“Donating blood is mutually beneficial for donors and patients,” Dr Chekinda said. “The donors are more motivate d to look after their own health, because you have to be healthy to give blood regularly.”

Dr Chekinda also said that donating blood arouses a noble spirit in people, and helps to purify their minds.

Ashin Teikha Nyanna, a 25-year-old Buddhist monk from the Dhammaduta Zeta Won Forest Monastery in Hmawbi, Yangon Division, has become a regular blood donor since he overcame his initial reluctance to participate.

“At first, I was not interested in giving my blood to patients, but I decided to accompany my friend to the hospital when he went to donate. At the hospital he was told that he couldn’t give blood because of his low haemoglobin count,” he said.

“When I saw the patient, I sympathised with him and decided to donate on the spot, because my blood type was the same.
“In my monastery, there are about 100 Buddhist monks. When it comes to blood donation, we are categorised into two groups – one group gives blood regularly on a four-month basis, and the other group is assigned for emergency donation.”

According to a June 14 report from the National Blood Centre, the number of people between the ages of 18 and 29 who donate blood every four months increased 61 percent from 2005 to 2009.

But even with the surge, blood donors are only meeting roughly 85pc of demand, Dr Thida Aung said.

Throughout the country, about 180,000 people require a blood transfusion each year. In Yangon Division, the figure ranges from 24,000 to 36,000 a year, she said.

“We need volunteer blood donors every day to help with emergencies,” she said.