Upahaar charity celebrates Organ Donation Week at Parliament

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Upahaar, a charitable organisation dedicated to raising awareness about Organ and Bone Marrow (Stem cell) donation within the South Asian community, observed Organ Donation Week with a special event held at the British Parliament on Monday 18th September.

Under the guiding motto of ‘Live Life, Give Life,’ this charity is committed to increasing awareness regarding blood stem cell and diseased organ donation among Asian communities, extending its reach not only within the UK but beyond.

Seema Malhotra, Member of Parliament for Feltham and Heston, a staunch supporter of Upahaar, graciously invited the organisation’s volunteers for a celebratory gathering at the Parliament. This assembly, attended by approximately 50 devoted Upahaar volunteers, served as a platform to discuss ongoing activities and update the MP about future initiatives. The event also featured moving real-life accounts from organ donors and recipients.

Upahaar extends its support to the families of stem cell and organ donors throughout the donation process. Additionally, the charity actively promotes and supports research aimed at improving stem cell and organ donor registration within the community. Their campaigns are carefully orchestrated in collaboration with faith groups and various community organisations, ensuring comprehensive coverage across the UK.

The organisation’s efforts extend to participating in community festivals, celebrations, prayer meetings, and other gatherings to facilitate organ and stem cell donor registrations.

Upahaar maintains close partnerships with Anthony Nolan, a charity connecting patients with stem cell donors, and the DKMS Foundation, an international organisation dedicated to combating blood cancer and blood disorders. Representatives from these organisations, Holly Gooch and Hannah Tarrant, provided an overview of their activities during the meeting. Upahaar also works closely with NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).

Seema Malhotra, in her address at the gathering, lauded the life-saving contributions of the volunteers, emphasising the privilege of hosting them during Organ Donation Week.

The meeting was presided over by Dr. A Siddiq Pulakal, Trustee and Chairman of Upahaar and a Consultant in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, and co-chaired by Dr. Agimol Pradeep BEM, a Trustee of Upahaar and a Senior Transplant Coordinator, and Organ and Stem Cell Donor Campaigner, with a special focus on Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. The gathering was warmly welcomed by Mr. Bijoy Sebastian.

Dr. Siddiq, in his speech, expressed gratitude for the outstanding volunteers who have contributed to saving countless lives.

Dr Agimol introduced two exemplary Upahaar volunteers, Mr. Patil and Dr. Salam, who generously donated their stem cells. She also highlighted the tremendous progress made since Upahaar’s inception in 2013, with the chances of saving Asian patients with blood cancer improving from one in 10,000 to a promising one in 750.

“Apart from raising awareness about organ donation, Upahaar has significantly increased the chances of survival for those in need” said Dr.Agimol Pradeep.

Dr. Zainul Aabideen, a paediatric cancer specialist and BMT Physician and Trustee, now residing in the UAE, provided a global perspective on Upahaar’s vital mission.

Fr. Anony James, Vicar General of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Great Britain, shed light on the church’s perspective on organ donation and the sanctity of life.

Stem cell donors Mr. Jaydeep Patil and Dr. Shandar Salam captivated the audience with their personal stories, emphasising the transformative impact of their contributions.

Bindhu Xavier consented for her husband to be an organ donor and he saved multiple lives.

The meeting also featured the selfless act of Catholic priest Fr. Jinson Devassia, a parish priest in Chester who anonymously donated his kidney to a stranger, earning expressions of gratitude for his life-saving gift.

One of the most touching stories belonged to Mini Karuppan, a Senior Clinical Research Nurse in Diabetes. Mini patiently waited for a kidney donor match and recounted the emotional phone call received when a match was finally found.

To honour the utmost dedication of its volunteers, Upahaar presented them with mementos and certificates.

Ms. Jainy Chacko, a prominent figure within Upahaar, took the opportunity to extend her heartfelt gratitude to all attendees. Her closing remarks served as a touching reminder of the importance of community-driven initiatives like Upahaar in making a meaningful impact on the lives of individuals in need.

The charity, which was highly active before the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to stress the importance of organ donation and encourages its members to revitalise local activities.