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.
Yorgui is focusing on bringing desperately needed blood into the challenged medical system in Lebanon by mobilizing the community around the joy of giving. By arranging different campaigns nationally and internationally, he has been able to spread joy to volunteers and blood donors, mobilizing more than 15,000 blood donors so far including students as well as employees of NGO’s and companies.
The blood donation system in Lebanon is challenging since it is based on the replacement system, which means 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 working to change the people’s and the government’s mindset. Already, he has successfully been able to unify the hospitals’ blood donation guidelines with the help of the Ministry of Health and the parliament members. He is now working with the government to make sure the hospitals implement these guidelines. He runs awareness and advocacy campaigns on radio and TV to keep the issue at the forefront until a functioning voluntary system is fully accomplished.
Yorgui is building on the movement that he created for blood donation to bring broader peace and sharing in society. He is bringing in joy to volunteerism in order to resolve conflicts that prevail in societies due to ethnic and religious sectarianism. The presence of both the lack of blood and conflicts not only in Lebanon, but also in MENA enables Yorgui to scale his work across the region.
In Lebanon, people are still dying due to the lack of blood stocks in hospital’s blood banks; especially the patients with rare blood type such as (AB- or B-). This arises due to the outdated replacement system relied on in Lebanon, which involves hospitals asking patients in need to solicit donations from friends and family; this is due to the lack of availability and quantity of blood units in hospitals; which does also excites in Egypt. Relying on the outdated replacement system leads blood seekers to spend hours contacting their friends and relatives to find potential blood donors using mobile phones and social media. However the majority find themselves lost and hopeless without any blood units; and even the ones who reach any donors through their strong connection, most of them only get part of the units they need.
Government does not perceive this issue as a priority, resulting into a lack of intervention into fixing this system, which lead hospitals to follow different guidelines, thinking that this is the best way to treat the patient. Guidelines are described as different criteria for selecting blood donors; where they decide to accept or reject them depending on their gender, age and tattoos or piercings. 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 tool of persuasion to the government to change the system which might lead to a huge reduction into the shortage of blood transfusion that Lebanon is facing.
There are 116 blood banks in hospitals in addition to 12 Red Cross banks located in Lebanon, however it is still facing a blood shortage of 70%. 120,000 blood units (450ml each) are required yearly to meet the needs of the Lebanese population, though blood banks do not reach this requirement due to their regulations and guidelines. Even though the Ministry of Health was involved in this issue in 2012 and was successfully able to unify one guideline to be followed by all hospitals, most of the hospitals still rejected it and continue to follow their own guidelines, which results into this high shortage of blood units that the country is facing. It is only when disaster strikes happens that blood banks are filled. By contrast, in free times, blood banks become empty. Hospitals refuse voluntary blood donors for several reasons. They do not wish to pay for the high cost of blood analysis, assuming donors are donating just to analyze their blood and not because of the humanitarian side of it. Hospitals also have poor management and don’t want to take the risk that blood units will expire which must be discarded after 42 days. Sometimes, they accept voluntary blood donors, but donors go through an unpleasant and uncomfortable intake processes that requires more tests than the hospital uses and can even badly impact their health if hemoglobin level, blood pressure and body temperature permit the donor to give blood.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) Health profile, Lebanon contains only 4.5 million citizens. However, due to the on-going crisis that are happening in Syria the country has now absorbed a 25% increase in the population due to 1.5 million registered Syrian refugees; in addition to the Syrians, there are 450,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, according to UNRWA “United Nations Relief and Works Agency”. This will result into more pressure on Lebanon’s government, because it must work on integrating these refugees with the Lebanese citizens and satisfy their basic needs The outdated replacement system is even more of a challenge for refugees since they are not with their families so they do not have access to blood units when in need.
In addition, and in modern health care, blood transfusions are an ever more integrated practice that has the potential to save millions of lives. WHO argues that 1% of the population regularly donates blood globally and in order to have a proper blood supply, the percentage should be increased to 4-5%. Although countries as Egypt and Jordan have blood collection systems run by the government, it lacks a strong culture and functioning system of voluntary blood donation. This makes those very collection systems in place vulnerable due to lack of culture amongst people to support the sustainability of those systems.
Yorgui is focusing on leveraging blood donation campaigns for three main goals. One is to mobilize the community through the joy of giving, two is to unify guidelines of all the hospitals, and three is to transform the replacement system to voluntarily based system. With his actor based approach, he is working on uniting the volunteers in order to approach a large number of blood donors through blood donation campaigns organized in universities, cinemas, malls and public places, a call center and a mobile application with the support of health NGOs, hospitals, Red Cross, Ministry of Health, as well as the parliament, private banks, restaurants, and CSR programs in companies.
Yorgui involves volunteers, blood donors, hospitals, NGOs, Red Cross, university students and companies in order to create incentives for promoting his blood donation campaigns. To begin, campaigns are done everywhere in malls, universities and public places; he also uses holidays such as Halloween, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day to send his message in a creative way to reach for more blood donors and volunteers that have to go through an interview and follow some rules such as paying a membership fee and if they didn’t attend two meetings they will not be treated as volunteers. For the successfulness of his campaigns and as a safety for the donors, reaching 60k in 2016, he partnered with restaurants such as Tacos Del Rey by providing a meal for each donor after the blood donation to make sure that the donor went through a pleasant experience and is willing to repeat it; this way the retention rate will increase. In addition, DSC accepts the donors based on filling an application that consists of 54 questions to be answered honestly from the donor.
Yorgui established a vast network with hospitals across Lebanon. Due to his great network he partnered with 27 different hospitals across Lebanon where 12 of them are located in the North, including Nini, Heikal and Elzaghrata hospitals; in the south like Maounet hospital and Saida governmental hospital and many others in Beirut like Hotel dieu de France and Makassed hospitals. Hospitals are responsible to analyze the received bllod units in their labs then supply patients in need with those units. In addition, Yorgui partnered with the Red Cross to facilitate the process of storing blood units, compensating for the lack of staff in hospitals and the unavailability of operations’ employees after the working hours.
Yorgui was able to reach 40k students through his work with universities, which plays a major role in the youth engagement. Yorgui initiated a club called “Bloody Challenge” in various universities such as University of Saint Joseph where young people serve as volunteers and run the events themselves as being part of the club. They are responsible to organize and decorate the set up for blood drives that takes place inside of the university, arrange conferences that would serve the cause and improve the knowledge of the importance of bringing joy and being part of this humanitarian act. In addition, they also undergo competitions between different teams from different universities. 20 questions related to blood donation are asked and the winning team receives the award.
A total of 486 blood donation campaigns have been done since 2011. Donors are reached through the network DSC, a mobile application, and call center. The mobile application simplifies the process of blood donations in 4 ways: (1) facilitates blood seekers to access blood donors by patient request on the app, (2) sets a reminder to donate, (3) notifies the uses when cases are in need of donors, 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 either the seekers or donors. Yorgui runs a call center that facilitates the contact between blood seekers and donors, as well as head hunting volunteers to participate in blood donation campaigns. Only through call center, Yorgui collected 3000 blood units and saved 10k patients in 2016.
The fast growth of DSC can be measured by the funds he is receiving each year due to his good communication and belief in the cause. He fundraises through 5 main institutions. Banks like Bank Eli’temad El Lebnani, in late 2016 with which he partnered with Lebanon and Syria Bank and was able to fund $100k for his idea and was able to partner with the Scottish Blood Bank through the support of “IFBDO” The International Federation of Blood Donor Organization to cover the needed cars and tools for all the campaigns that will be done in 2016. Also, Multilaterals such as the Global Blood Fund, their main aim is to distribute resources from Europe to countries with poor health system; they partnered with DSC in 2017 to give them the needed resources used in campaigns.
DSC also works with private sector companies such as nightclubs and CSR departments of companies. Yorgui gets the companies to agree to provide space for running a campaign inside the company and to give him a fund starting at $500 that could be topped by the multiples of $500 like $1k and $1.5k for example. Shifting to the night clubs, he was able to partner in 2015 with Sky Bar 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 and the result is a huge show of number thus being able to fund $100,000 dollars as revenue 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 and in Universities such as the Universite of Saint Joseph (USJ). Due to these campaigns, he was able to reach 12k blood units in 2016 from 160 campaigns, which is a great development from 2012 when he gained only 793 blood units from 13 campaigns. DSC was able to save 58287 lives, and finish 486 campaigns.
Yorgui’s campaigns transcend the geography of Lebanon. One of those campaigns is called “el hal b ideik” which means “the solution is in your hand”. It 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, Yourgi 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. People in those cities take pictures of those billboards and post them in social media. Yorgui synchronized the takeoff of those campaigns across different cities. Yorgui then promoted those campaigns through different media channels such as TV during prime time news such as 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 viewer 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 in Lebanon and (2) motivate Lebanese people to become advocates to the promotion of 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 meeting the Minister of Health, as part of lobbying for implementing a law to unify guidelines across all hospitals in Lebanon and implement the voluntary based blood donation system.
Yorgui is working on scaling his work as follows. On one hand, he is starting to organize a blood donation campaigns during football matches, 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 the two rivals in the stadium, where he will arise the idea of Blood for Peace by engaging and uniting the rivals in the same cause of donating blood in order to bring joy. On the other hand, he will join the event done by the International Federation for Blood Donor Organization “IFBDO” on the Blood Day on the 14th of June; where it includes all the registered NGOs around the world that are considered as members, Yorgui will give a pitch about blood for peace mainly to let the NGOs around the world to gather and unite different sects of each country to donate blood and support a cause and bring joy to a difficult situation. Yorgui started to do that in Lebanon since the country includes 18 state-recognized religious sects.
Yorgui was born in Lebanon and was raised among a supportive family that could help him achieve his goals and engage in his idea. He went to the College of Notre Dame De Jamhour from 1990 till 2003, majoring in biology. Univeristy opened his eyes to many opportunities and activities like scouting, religious movements and many other social aspects. He also studied Pharmacy in the Lebanese American University. Growing up, he served for 15 years in the Scout movement where he learned about community services, 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.
One day, Yorgui went through a big accident where he was the reason behind someone’s death, unintentionally. After being kept for some days for investigation, the day he came out he decided to help somebody every day.
Also during this time, in May 2006, the grandfather of his friend suffered from a severe heart attack. The grandfather was in urgent need of 5 units of AB- blood, one of the rarest blood types in Lebanon and the world. After looking everywhere among families and friends, they were unable to find the needed blood.
This is when it all started. Yorgui and his friend decided to form a small network of blood donors to help the patient but unfortunately their efforts were not enough to save the man’s life.
Through these two different life-changing experiences, Yorgui started in 2006 to work on a network to recruit blood donors to save patients life and help them live in a better health. After the government formally approved his organization, Donner Sang Compter (“DSC”), Yorgui started operations in 2011.