In turn: Ellyse’s OutLook, part 2

In a series of posts, Ellyse Look shares her journey as an Asian American Donor Program (AADP) intern with us in a series of thoughtful and detailed reflections. It’s a revealing window into the everyday ups and downs and the minutiae of donor recruitment. Her diary is also testament to a truly hands-on experience, and  a great example of how AADP empowers their interns with real responsibility and a space to express their views. It’s the new generation’s turn to add their voice to the conversation. This installment is a prequel to the previous post.

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Intern Ellyse with drive volunteers

June 23-July 1

I’m entering my third week as an intern and things are happening so quickly! My first drive was a celebration in a Guamanian community. We were the only booth there and I expected little interest in our work. Surprisingly we had many genuinely interested individuals. This was likely due to the announcements during the festival, especially from our patient Joey and his family. Once Joey explained how he was in need of a donor with a similar ethnic background, people began to ask about our cause, showing empathy for a fellow Guamanian. It was a story that struck home for many people. Their only concerns were about how their general health might be affected by becoming a donor.

In contrast, we held another drive in a corporate setting. It was a small health fair with many large organizations and a few local groups. The organizers of the fair set up a requirement for employees to visit booths to enter a raffle. This exposed a good number of people to information about bone marrow donation. It was my first time delivering an informational spiel on my own. Since it was in a professional setting, I was a little nervous and initially stumbled on my words a bit. Thanks to some coaching from my coworker James, I was eventually able to make a smoother delivery to employees. Perhaps many employees learned new or up-to-date and accurate information. I could tell many people had preconceived notions of marrow donation, mostly what they had heard or seen in the media. Providing information helped to clear up any apprehension or misconceptions that they might have had.

However, the requirement to visit our table brought many others who only wanted our signature to enter the raffle but were not receptive the information. It was frustrating knowing that they may not have internalized any of my presentation, but I still needed to try in case there was a chance I could expose them to the idea of becoming a donor. This event was more of an informational day than anything else.

Fast forward to Saturday night in the San Francisco. Hyphen magazine had their 10th anniversary celebration in a decked out warehouse. The magazine caters to young professionals in the Asian American community, so the event had a diverse crowd interested in different parts of local culture and community issues. The sound system was up loud, people were dressed to mingle, and the smell of free food was in the air. People circulated around the room to browse the booths and a few stopped by our table to chat with us about our program. Maybe it was the celebratory ambiance or the population that the magazine drew in, but people were generally very receptive to our cause. I was surprised that many were genuinely curious about the registration and donation process or were interested in how bone marrow donation affected the Asian American community. Though we did not have many people register, there was a decent amount of interest for a social event.

The next morning, my fourth drive was at Abundant Life Christian Fellowship Church in Mountain View. It was our first drive at the location and we had a few volunteers and a patient come out to help. They had made announcements weeks in advance and had posters up throughout the church, so the community was prepared. My coworkers told me that it was our first drive in this community, but I was not prepared for what was about to happen: the after-mass rush! There must have been at least 10 to 15 at a time at our tables and a line that formed on the side. All our pens and clipboards were used and it was so crowded that I needed to direct traffic. I ended up giving swab demonstrations [to type registering donors] every 15 seconds. After two masses, my throat got a bit dry from all the talking (and the night before I was nearly yelling over the music). We had nearly 90 people register, which was the most I have ever seen at a drive. It was thrilling to see so many people register and/or support the drive. Even the patient, Joi, was excited about the outcome of the drive. My only wish was that the crowd was more organized. Posters for each area would have been helpful, perhaps with some arrows pointing people in the right direction. Next time, I will plan to bring more supplies and put up signs to help with crowd control.

After only one week of drives, I have seen a huge variety of settings and communities. I can’t wait for the next few events!

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