Sazan Mandalawi
Last updated: 5 June, 2014

These Erbil youth have started a bloody movement to save lives

It is not hard to spot a cluster of young boys and girls belonging to a self-run charity organization, Dilvia, in one of Erbil’s modern malls. They stand out – in so many ways...

The Dilvia team, or Dilvians, as they call themselves, are youth between 20 to 25 years old, they hold all their regular meetings in coffee shops, “we are basically homeless,” laughs, Shan Kamran, founder of the organization.

This particular meeting’s jubilant atmosphere is created by sharing their day’s highlights. “Over 60 people donated blood!” exclaims Shan as she claps her hands together, the young dentist full of energy gives a sigh of relief, “I can’t believe this, the number is much higher than what I expected!”

This marks the first day of a campaign initiated by Dilvia to encourage people to donate blood in order to meet the high demand and low availability in hospitals across the region.

“We are basically homeless”

The news revealed by Shan creates excitement among the organization’s members as they prepare to raise awareness before International Blood Donation Day on June 14.

“The idea began on our private Facebook page, one of the members wrote the suggestion that we go to the city, malls and universities to give information about blood donation, simultaneously, give those who would like to donate the opportunity to do so at a convenient place.”

“First we thought it was a good idea but not feasible here, then Berivan did some research and commented that it is possible,” explains Shan.

Berivan Ibrahim, a resident doctor and projects coordinator in Dilvia adds, “I found out the Blood Bank had a mobile team and a caravan. It took a lot of organizing and many days to attain the necessary approvals.”

Before taking donations from people, 30 members of Dilvia donated blood together, the pictures were shared on social media, and a short advertisement video was created to be aired on local television channels.

The team from the Blood Bank alongside Dilvia’s volunteers are located in the heart of Erbil, near the Citadel in the Shar garden between 2-4 June taking blood donations from people while spreading leaflets to passers-by.  

“Some of the children with thalassemia join us at the caravan; they give flowers to the donors to say thank you. Of course there are many others who would also like to say thank you but due to their health conditions they cannot leave the hospital.”

“In the world, every two seconds someone needs one pint of blood,” informs Berivan, emphasising the need for blood donations in the Kurdistan Region. She says they already have approximately 4,000 donors a month, but that does not suffice.

Meanwhile, in their long meeting and re-orders of iced-latte, squeezed in the middle of the small round table sits a thick notepad, at the top of the page in large writing it reads: “Ramadan”, and underneath, handwritten dot points and scribbles. A brainstorming session is about to begin for projects in the holy month of Ramadan.

“In the world, every two seconds someone needs one pint of blood”

“Every member in Dilvia pays 30,000 ID a month, and with that money we undertake projects during those four weeks, I feel guilty to pay that money to rent an office, instead we can use the income to do charity work.” Says Shan.

Their previous projects include work with the poor, vulnerable, cancer patients, orphans and the elderly.

With no major funding from any organization, the young group undertake charity work by funds from donations, sometimes sponsorships and their own membership fees. This makes them the only youth organization in the region that is self-supported through their membership fees.

“I would leave my job and just do the work in Dilvia,” reveals Berivan. “There is so much we can do, but we are all working one or two different jobs and running the organization at the same time.”

Asim Ghassan, responsible for Dilvia’s finances, states the need for companies to sponsor some of their events and fund projects. In the meantime, Shan is overwhelmed by how far Dilvia has come since its establishment in December 2011.

“I just had an idea of doing this charity organization with some friends, and they all made this idea possible. Once you experience the feeling of giving, you simply cannot stop.”