Helping Others is in Our Blood

The Red Cross Youth Task Force, USA

Rishi Lahoti on December 4, 2018 in Health & Sanitation

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood and only about 10% of eligible people donate blood yearly. Many low-income families still don’t have clean clothes. In Virginia, 14% of all children are born below the poverty line. These distressing figures barely touch the surface of the various types of health problems impoverished children face - The Red Cross Youth Task Force club at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) is trying to help solve them.

The school, which consistently ranks among the nation’s best, offers a wide host of clubs and among them is the local chapter of the Red Cross. Its self-described purpose is to “foster a community that works to serve both members of the local community and beyond.” Currently, their biggest project is an upcoming blood drive which is scheduled for November 30 and an additional one in the spring.

With a current blood shortage declared by the Virginia Blood Services, blood donation is more important than ever. This coupled with the fact that only 37% of the general population is eligible to donate blood and that there are few alternatives to blood transfusions only add to the issue. This is why Ellen Chen, president of the club, says “Donating blood can help save the life of another individual. There is a constant need for blood, and by spending an hour donating, one has the ability to give the gift of life.” While restrictions to donate blood may be tight, high school students tend to have less restrictive rules. Moreover, high school blood drives tend to take less than 10 minutes and maximize efficiency. Last year’s blood drive attracted a strong turnout that included juniors, seniors, and even some faculty.

“When we are not planning for blood drives, we work with local organizations and perform various projects,” continued Chen. Other projects of The Red Cross Youth Task Force include working with the NOVA relief center to make blankets for Syrian refugees, making friendship bracelets for children in hospitals, connecting with LaundryLove to provide less fortunate members of the local community with free laundry for a three-hour period and making hygiene packages for women’s shelter and emergency kits for them too. To put all these initiatives into context, according to the Virginia Department of Social Services, more than 16,000 refugees have been resettled in Virginia; nearly 17% of all hospital stays are that of Children (HCUP 2009); and nearly one in five American girls do not have access to their hygiene needs (ACP Survey 2017). Organizations like the Red Cross, that work on tackling public health crises, are of the utmost importance and enabling them to do what they do best by contributing to the process is necessary.

As Chen puts it, “knowing that what we do has such a direct impact on people's lives is pretty incredible, we've gotten letters back from organizations and people coming out to our meetings to speak.” We certainly hope the club will continue to strive for a locale that is a better place to live with each passing day. Visit their Facebook page at

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