My story began from a CBC News article that I read by journalist Anna Cunningham on September 22, 2016:
“Nigerian children ‘clinging to life’ as world ignores humanitarian crisis.”
This is too big for the Nigerian government to handle, too big for UNICEF to handle on its own, too massive a crisis — and the world needs to mobilise
In the article, Doune Porter, from the UN children’s fund UNICEF, said,
“This is too big for the Nigerian government to handle, too big for UNICEF to handle on its own, too massive a crisis — and the world needs to mobilise”.
And so I mobilised.
I joined a WhatsApp group of concerned women who wanted to do more than wring our hands. As expatriates living in Lagos, Nigerians returned from the diaspora, and Nigerians that had never left, we were united in our determination. We HAD to do SOMETHING.
From that decision, we spent four months:
We did it.
I, and a group of ordinary volunteers with no prior experience or financial backing, achieved something none of us had ever thought in our wildest dream we could do. We had mobilised a community of disparate nationalities to donate blood and get it to the epicentre of an international humanitarian crises.
On a scorchingly hot, afternoon in February 2017, I, Abiola Okubanjo, a former investment banker from London, England and a mother of three young children, made the perilous journey to Maiduguri, right in the middle of a combat zone in the north east of Nigeria.
My mission was to somehow collect voluntarily-donated blood for the 2.6 million people displaced within their own country as a result of 7 years of Boko Haram insurgency and deliver the pints to a refugee camp.
It was on the dusty tarmac of the airport’s landing strip that I signed the pints over to the aid agencies working in the internally displaced people (IDP) camps – National Blood Transfusion Service, International Commitee of the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières.
Ignoring the sweat sluicing down my back, I watched the aide workers load the cooler boxes into their rugged jeeps and breathed a sigh of relief.
My ‘Mad Mission to Maiduguri’ would go on to inspire others to have their own adventures in ‘saving the world’. It would also be the genesis of Action On Blood.
Having started life doing blood drives amongst supposedly ‘hard to reach’ black African communities, I determined that Action on Blood would now help other minority populations mobilise their communities too.
It would become a global network of passionate individuals committed to saving lives through voluntary blood and organ donation to their own communities. Whichever communities our members would represent – Christian, Muslim, low caste, traveller, LGBT, disabled, mixed race – we would empower them to raise awareness about voluntary donation and facilitate safe and convenient blood and organ collections.
Embedded in their respective communities, they would have the power to navigate social nuances, break down attitudinal barriers and challenge negative behaviours that prevent donation and end lives prematurely.
Although the start of our story is worthy of its own blockbuster movie, the REAL adventures have only just begun.
Action On Blood has grown to become a global community of voluntary blood and organ donors, committed to building cultures of voluntary donation in our different communities. From Lagos to London and Delhi to Doha, they donate blood regularly and put on activities that help others to do the same.
With over 1,000 active members around the world, Action On Blood members represent and impact diverse communities, ethnicities, genders and religions. They are inspiring, driven and passionate individuals, using their unique skills and insider cultural knowledge to save their part of the world.
Our HQ is the UK and is registered as Action On Blood Ltd. Our main operational arm is in Nigeria, where we are registered as Blood Ties Donor Foundation.
A large part of our funding comes from commercial partnerships with national blood and organ services and local blood banks. By building large populations of active donors, we support them to provide critical blood and organs for their citizens. We also generate income by providing brands and other agencies with opportunities to sponsor social impact activities and with support to build their audiences.