Halifax students helped people around the world by bolstering the genetic diversity of a stem-cell donor bank this week.

The One Match Stem Cell and Marrow Network gathers information and a cheek swab from volunteers. One of the Canadian Blood Services program’s key goals is to make the bank more ethnically — and therefore genetically — diverse.

For example, there are more than 20 million potential stem-cell donors registered in 72 countries worldwide, but only one per cent are black. 

'It's an opportunity to do something that's simple, but can make a huge impact on someone else's life.' - Emmanuel John

Students at Halifax West High School used their break to change that Monday.

Habiba Cooper Diallo helped organize the event. She said the international nature of the Clayton Park school made it ideal.

“We have students from Iran, students from Nigeria, students from Ghana, students from Afghanistan. That diversity is so key to increasing the number of black potential donors, the number of South Asian potential donors,” she said.

“That's what my school community can bring to the One Match program — that diversity which is so essential.”

Donations can help people with diseases including:

  • lymphoma
  • leukemia
  • sickle cell anemia

The donor must be a precise genetic match.

Easy way to make a big difference

Emmanuel John is a student volunteer.

“It's an opportunity to do something that's simple, but can make a huge impact on someone else's life. To come out here and encourage fellow students to participate in something like this, it's not that hard to do,” John said.  

Javon Parris said it’s a weird sensation, but that’s soon displaced. “You get a good feeling. That plays a part in why I'd give some bone marrow, too,” Parris said.

The swabs collected Monday will be processed and entered into a database. That will take about a month.

After that, the potential donors could be asked to make a donation that could save a life.

Corrections

  • The program is run by the Canadian Blood Services, not the Canadian Red Cross.
    Feb 18, 2014 10:08 AM AT