Delta’s first ‘Sikh Walk for Life’ calling out to the community to sign up as organ and bone-marrow donors

Published: June 19, 2014

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Surrey’s Pinder Saran never thought of organ donation until someone in her family was in desperate need of a donor.

When her Ontario cousin, Moneet Mann, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia last year, she found out that of the 342,000 Canadians on the bone marrow registry, only four per cent were South Asian — and her cousin’s most likely match was someone from the same ethnic background. So she and many other family members were called to action and helped develop the young woman’s “Will You Marrow Me?” campaign that swept across the country holding swabbing events to get South Asians on the bone-marrow list.

Volunteers at the swabbing event for Moneet Mann’s ‘Will You Marrow Me?’ campaign in Surrey. (Submitted photo)

While Mann was fortunate enough to find a match and went in for her transplant on Thursday, Saran is continuing the awareness campaign and will be bringing it to Delta’s first-ever Sikh Walk for Life event on Sunday that will be geared to signing people up as organ and bone-marrow donors.

“With us here in the South Asian community, there seems to be a little bit of ignorance,” Saran told Vancouver Desi. “We give in so many different ways, we give food, we do food kitchens, we give money, but when it comes to giving something that’s ours — in the sense of giving an organ transplant or stem cell transplant — we’re naive to it.”

“We don’t really care to educate ourselves unless someone we know and is close and dear to us [needs it] … that’s honestly exactly what happened with me.”

So on Sunday she hopes to help educate the community and encourage others to become donors now, instead of waiting until someone they know is affected.

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Event organizer Tera Singh, was inspired to create the event after years of helping with the Sikh Nation blood drive held across the country every November, which, according to Singh, is one of Canada’s largest blood drives.

“We want to do the same thing with stem-cell donations and organ donations,” Singh said of the upcoming event, adding that not only are South Asian donors incredibly low when it comes to bone marrow and stem cells, but also organs.

“When it comes to organ donation there’s lots of myths out there,” said Singh. “Most of us, we come from India — India does not have a very good health care system and the system is generally corrupt.

“If I was in India I would never be an organ donor.”

Moneet Mann’s ‘Will You Marrow Me?’ campaign team pose for the camera in Surrey at a swabbing event. (Submitted photo)

According to Singh, there’s a large mistrust of the system in India, which many new immigrants carry with them to Canada.

“We sort of need to erase that,” said Singh. “We need to educate the community … and give them confidence that this system in Canada is totally different.”

So at the Sikh Walk for Life, a number of booths from the health sector will be set up, including the Kidney Foundation, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Will You Marrow Me? campaign, as well as representatives from mental health services and diabetes awareness.

“When it comes to raising money whenever there’s a good cause, the community opens up its wallet and millions of dollars are raised — we just need … to give them information and people will come forward,” said Singh. “Give them the right information and people will come and rally together and that’s what we’re doing.”

“Unless we can educate them we’re going to continue to lose lives to leukemia or whatever else it may be,” added Saran.

The Sikh Walk for Life runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday at North Delta Secondary School.

lcahute@theprovince.com

twitter.com/larissacahute

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