What can be more helpless a situation than to see a loved one die for the want of blood, when a donor might be just around the corner yet unknown to you?
Many such examples of hapless deaths due to decrepit conditions of blood banks that are perpetually short of blood, and the absence of a medium between donors and prospective receivers, gave Khushroo Poacha, a Nagpur-based railway employee, the impetus to start www.indianblooddonors.com, a helpline that acts as a conduit between the two in 2000.
While voluntary blood donors can register themselves on the website, the website’s IVRS (07961907766) takes calls of recipients and connects them to donors having the required blood group.
“Donors can also be contacted through SMS and the website’s android application and soon after a recipient is allotted a donor, the latter is immediately intimated about the emergency,” says Poacha, who started the website with the help of his wife Fermin.
Launching and advertising for the website cost Poacha his life’s savings but the initial response of donors was bleak, until the earthquake happened in Gujarat on January 26, 2001.
“I understood that there would be a pressing need for blood donors in the wake of the calamity and approached a leading TV channel to flash our website on the scroll to which they agreed. Requests started pouring in from donors within minutes and about 3,500 had registered themselves on the website in the next five days, causing the server to crash under the weight of the traffic,” says Poacha. The website today has about 60,000 donors and receives an average of 100 requests for blood per day.
A recipient of The Times of India Nagpur Heroes 2013 award and felicitated with Jiyo Dil Se Award from 94.3 FM, Rotary Vocation Excellence Awards, Manthan Award and the $10,000 Ashoka Changemakers Award for Elevating Patients Voices to Improve Health Outcome, Poacha had also his share of hurdles.
“The greatest of them was an acute crunch of funds, with bankruptcy staring me in the face. I had stopped seeking or receiving sponsors, due to the exploitive nature of companies and had decided to face challenges as they come along. My decisions subjected me to harsh criticisms but miraculously every challenge has been taken care of perhaps because my intentions have been clear,” says Poacha relating incidents when unknown contributors had pitched in with handsome donations during critical moments.
That apart, the operation of his websites is conducted by companies like Awaaz De (provides free IVRS), Net4India (free web hosting) and Innoz Technology and Text Browser (help facilitate sms service), who have volunteered to aid it free of cost. The website presently runs at a cost of `10,000 per year.
A spinoff of www.indianblooddonors.com is www.plateletdonors.org, an SMS helpline launched by Poacha two years back, to help cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy with platelets. Having over 800 donors, the helpline has so far provided platelets to about 750 cancer patients and has also been extended to the neighbouring countries of Sri Lanka and Pakistan to garner more donors.
While Poacha takes care to introduce the helpline on all media platforms to create more awareness among people, he expects fellow citizens to do their bit by just spreading the word.
Now that both his websites are smoothly running on auto-pilot mode, Poacha is all braced to move on to his next project which is to build a kitchen for rural folks, who face problem in finding food while attending on their ailing relatives (patients) in hospitals in cities. While Poacha has already selected a place near a hospital in Nagpur for the kitchen, he plans to extend it to other cities in the future.
“My mother has always taught us to give and what can be more generous an act that ‘annadaan’ (the gift of rice)?,” he asks.