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Interview with Igor Kastyukevich

2020 has become a challenging year for the donor movement. During the pandemic, the number of donors has decreased. But it also created a new movement, blood donors responded to the call #BeaDonor. Igor Kastyukevich, deputy head of the ONF Executive Committee tells us about and what this year was remembered for.

Molodezhka ONF is known for its large-scale donor campaigns. Tell us more about them. How did it all begin?

Most of our events are a response to circumstances. Or fight back. As the first restrictions began in the pandemic and affected public transport, our guys launched the "Drive a Doctor" flash mob. The campaign has been running to this day, more than 1000 cars in the vehicle fleet across the country participate. When we saw the first signals on social networks that the blood bank was rapidly declining, we decided to draw attention to this through a donor marathon. The first action, which we conducted together with the Blood Service of the FMBA of Russia, called #BeaDonor, started on April 20, on the National Donor Day, and lasted for three days. The second marathon took place in June. As a result, about 70 thousand people in 76 regions of the country became participants. In August, we have already expanded the range of events and began to organize donor community workdays. By the way, these days continued the good tradition that began in the Blood Service 10 years ago. All regions of the country were already involved in the third marathon, organized by the Molodezhka ONF at the end of September, together with the Blood Service. Together with the Molodezhka ONF team, athletes from federations, motorcyclists and bikers, members of the Night Wolves club together with their President Alexander Zaldastanov, as well as football fans of CSK, Lokomotiv, Spartak, Zenit and participants in the street football "Street beauty" action by Molodezhka ONF donated blood. In September, the ombudsmen for children's rights under the President of the Russian Federation joined the marathon. Of course, all the actions took place with mandatory and strict observance of all necessary safety measures.

2020 is a year of hard trials and challenges. The period of self-isolation, the temporary cancellation of visiting donor actions, and many "donor traffic lights" turned red. How did you manage to launch the #BeaDonor marathon in such a difficult situation?

The name of the marathon speaks for itself #BeaDonor. In the context of a pandemic and restrictions, it was important to show the residents of the country that donations can and should be continued, guided by all necessary safety measures. After all, life cannot be "paused for a while." No one canceled operations, childbirth, and other situations in which transfusion or various blood components are required. It is customary among doctors to say that donors have good in their blood. It's true. For me, donors are the same volunteers, because they come to the aid of those whom they don't even know, but they are sure: someone's lives depend on their timely assistance. At such a difficult time for the country, volunteers do a very important job. We are always where help is needed. Whether it is assistance in re-profiling hospitals, home delivery of medicines, a request to take a doctor home after a difficult shift, or blood donation. Actions are always more important than words. I am grateful to everyone who joined our events and donated blood.

The entire 2020 year was under the motto #BeaDonor. How did a donor marathon become from a three-day event to a year-long event?

We saw that it was in demand and really needed. At first we thought that the #BeaDonor marathon, which we held in April, would be traditional and annual. But then we received a lot of calls from both residents and community representatives. And it became clear that there is a request to organize such events more often. Of course, blood centers in all regions have their own permanent donors and there was no such situation when supplies reached a critical level. But at a time when the number of donations was decreasing due to pandemic restrictions, through actions we tried to draw as much attention as possible to the importance of donation.

How did you manage to combine two calls - #StayHome and #BeaDonor?

Both calls have a common goal - to preserve the lives and health of people closest to you. Not only our family members. Staying at home was essential to stem the spread of the coronavirus. And it was important to remain donors for those whose lives and health depend on the timely provision of blood components. All our events were carried out in compliance with the necessary safety measures. Masks, gloves, antiseptic. Blood service establishments in the regions made preliminary registration, donors came at a certain time so as not to create queues. Moreover, by calling the hotline or on the websites and оставайсядонором.рф, everyone could get all the necessary information before donating: when and to whom it is possible to donate blood, recommendations for preparing for the procedure, and tips useful for donors' health. Special thanks to the partners of the event, thanks to which an mailing was made through the website of the State Service with an invitation to take part in the marathon.

Tell us about the results of the donor marathon. How many regions took part in it?

In total, more than 200 thousand people from all regions of Russia took part in the event. Just imagine - this is the size of a small town that exists in any of the regions of our country. A whole city of people who are not indifferent to the misfortune of others, who considered it important for themselves to come and take part in the #BeaDonor marathon. We saw an incredible combination of people from different professions, social groups, and communities with the desire to help. Of course, it is possible and necessary to remain donors. Good deeds are always out of bounds.

#BeaDonor 2021 - what are your plans for 2021?

Definitely, we will continue and grow. Moreover, that year an agreement on cooperation between the Molodezhka ONF and the Federal Medical-Biological Agency of Russia was signed, which specifically concerns the development of the donor movement. There is plenty of work ahead. It's only beginning.

And our traditional question: what would you wish to donors and people, who are going to join the donor program?

No matter how dangerous the coronavirus is, sooner or later it will back off. Self-isolation should not be a regime of isolation from kindness, help, and support. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of donation. It seems to be a simple procedure available to any healthy person. But one donation can help several people. Therefore, I urge everyone who, for health reasons, can become a donor not to give up this opportunity and to join the donor movement. 30 minutes of your time and somewhere, thanks to you, a person will get a chance for "tomorrow".

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