World Blood Donor Day: Meet the Dubai expat couple giving gift of life to strangers for years

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Salam Kanyappadi and his wife, Riyana Salam, donate blood during a UAE National Day celebration in Dubai.
Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The World Blood Donor Day is a special day for Indian expat Salam Kanyappadi and his wife Riyana Salam.

Celebrated on June 14 every year, WBDD is the day they look forward to spreading the message of giving the gift of life to strangers by donating blood.

They do not do it just by sharing social media posts like many others. The Keralite couple have been walking the talk by donating their blood and organising blood donation camps.

“Saving a life is the greatest donation that you can make in your life,” Salam, who has been donating blood almost every two or three months for over a decade, told Gulf News on the eve of this year’s World Blood Donor Day.

He was speaking just hours after donating blood at the Dubai Blood Donation Centre.

An active member of community groups doing voluntary services, Salam began his journey into blood donation after hospital visits during his social work in 2009.

His routine hospital visits on weekends to help patients in need culminated in a profound realisation of the critical need for blood donations.

“I saw how desperate the situation is for a family to save a loved one’s life when blood is not immediately available.”

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Salam Kanyappadi and Riyana Salam with their children
Image Credit: Supplied

Inspired by kindness

A finance manager at a private firm in Dubai, Salam said he was inspired to donate blood when he saw the work of the Kindness Blood Donation Team led by fellow countrymen Anwar Wayanad and Shihab Theruvath.

Since then, he has also been instrumental in spreading the message of blood donation among his community groups.

Through his involvement with Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) Dubai, one of the largest expatriate groups, Salam has organised numerous camps, facilitating the donation of approximately over 5000 units of blood.

A heartwarming moment in his experience was organising rare blood for a critically ill child bringing immense relief to the family.

While organising blood donation camps marking special occasions like UAE National Day, Indian Independence Day etc has been a routine affair, Salam is particularly proud of organising blood donation camps during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That was a time when we faced some challenges in getting the donors. We were doing a lot of voluntary services for people in Dubai. Donating blood became a heroic effort at that because many were scared of the coronavirus.”

He is proud to have been one of the social workers to receive special appreciation and gifts from Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, for his community service during the pandemic.

Also a golden visa recipient, Salam said: “Donating blood is also one way for us to give back to this country which is unique in making the people from all across the world feel at home.”

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Women’s role in donation

While Salam, currently the president of the Kasaragod district of Dubai KMCC, was propagating the message of blood donation to other community members, Riyana realised her role in supporting the cause.

“You can see that the majority of blood donors are men. Many women, especially from our native place, generally do not consider this as something that they can also do. But, any healthy individual regardless of gender can donate blood. By donating my blood, I also wanted to inspire more women to come forward. When a family member is in need of blood, women in the family should also come forward to donate,” said Riyana, a homemaker.

As an office bearer of the Dubai KMCC Women’s Wing, Riyana has been a role model in inspiring many women to start donating blood and blood products. She has also taken the initiative to hold women-only donors’ blood donation camps.

“I know there are certain limitations for some women. But, we should try to donate as much as possible as it will only help in improving our vitality.”

Riyana herself has faced such situations where she could not donate blood including in her latest attempt to do it on Thursday.

“Since we will be fasting in view of Eid Al Adha from Friday, we wanted to donate blood marking World Blood Donor Day today [Thursday]. Unfortunately, I could not do it because my haemoglobin level was slightly low. I am going to work on that and come back soon,” she said.

Selfless humanitarian service

The couple said they consider the opportunity to collaborate with many selfless individuals dedicated to humanitarian service as a big reward in their journey.

“I want to highlight the efforts of expatriate communities promoting blood donation. Organisations like KMCC, INCAS, Dubai Sunni Centre, Blood Donors Kerala, Kindness Blood Donation Team, Vikhaya, KCF, MSS, UFK, and BDI4U regularly organise blood donation camps in connection with the National Day and various celebrations. Many people donate blood enthusiastically on their birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and memorial days. Women’s organisations like KMCC Women’s Wing actively encourage blood donation among women. People keen to donate blood can do it individually or through any of these and other groups organising the blood donation camps,” Salam said.

The couple added that they want their three sons, Muhammad Shaad, Muhammad Shayan and Muhammad Shazin to follow in their footsteps in blood donation when they become adults.

World Blood Donor Day

World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) is observed annually on June 14 to honuor blood donors and raise awareness about the need for safe blood donation. Established in 2004 by major health organisations, it commemorates the birthday of Karl Landsteiner who identified blood groups. The day highlights the life-saving impact of voluntary blood donation.