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A Sickle Cell Video Went Viral in Canada: How GBF Helped Get It to Africa

Following the success of a sickle cell disease video campaign in Canada, Global Blood Fund's executive director had a thought: How can we get this to Africa?


Global Blood Fund Executive Director Gavin Evans has come across thousands of videos promoting blood donation over his 27 years in the blood industry, but stumbled on one a couple of years ago that managed to stand out above the rest.

The video, simply titled “130 for 1.”, features a young Black woman standing before 130 strangers. All 130 strangers are situated behind cartoon depictions of themselves printed on large whiteboards, like the board game “Guess Who?” brought to life. The woman begins asking the group a series of questions.

“Who here loves winter?”

Several people push down their boards in affirmation.

“Who here plays a musical instrument?”

Several more go down.

“Now, who here has ever donated blood?”

Each remaining card falls.

“My name is Ilanit,” she tells them. “I am 18 years old, and all of you here have saved my life.”


130 for 1 Finds Way to Africa

As she explains to her tear-stricken audience, Ilanit suffers from sickle cell anemia and depends on 130 donors from her community to keep her alive each year.

The Canadian nonprofit blood organization Héma-Québec published the video back in the summer of 2022 – its impact was immediate.

“It shows the whole village, in image, to save one member of the community,” said Claude Lebeouf, Héma-Québec’s head of planning for donor and volunteer recruitment. “I can’t watch that video without having a tear, even if I’ve seen it more than a hundred times.”

Released on YouTube in both English and French, the videos have been watched more than 1.5 million times – more views than Héma-Québec has ever had on the platform, according to Lebeouf.

Among those viewers was Gavin Evans.

“It was definitely one of the most well-done, moving productions I had seen on the issue,” Evans said. “We do a lot of work in Africa – a continent with two-thirds of the world’s sickle cell cases – so I naturally thought about how it could help the people there.”

MORE: What Is Sickle Cell Disease?

Before long, Global Blood Fund and Héma-Québec were in conversations about how to effectively share “130 for 1” with blood organizations across Africa. The two organizations worked to adapt it for non-Canadian viewers and, capitalizing on GBF’s connections with international industry leaders, agreed that GBF would present the video at a major upcoming blood innovation conference in Uganda.

MORE: What Is Global Blood Fund?

So on March 5, Evans and Our Blood Institute’s Jennifer Manuel presented the video to hundreds of leaders and representatives from blood organizations across Africa at the 11th AfSBT International Congress in Kampala, Uganda.


'The Message Can Work Anywhere'

Like Héma-Québec’s initial release, Evans and Manuel received an overwhelmingly positive response.

Ahmed Bumba with the Uganda Blood Transfusion Service said he would have the video on rotation in his donor room. Peter Chimkupete, a senior lecturer at De Montfort University in the United Kingdom, plans to share it with his students. Taonga Nyekanyeka of the Malawi Red Cross Society envisions using it to attract new donors.

Responses captured from AfSBT audience
(Illustration of responses captured from AfSBT audience)

All told, Global Blood Fund received dozens of requests for customized versions of the video. That level of excitement was just what Evans and Lebeouf had hoped to see.

“I think the simplicity of the message can work anywhere in the world,” Lebeouf said. “It’s showing solidarity. Wherever you are from on the planet, you can help someone.”

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