Personal mission for Beirut blood donation service founder

Social entrepreneur Yorgui Teyrouz set up his blood donation service in Lebanon after a close friend died in 2007 because there was not enough blood available to save him.
Yorgui Teyrouz started his enterprise in university, where he spent day and night answering calls. Courtesy Yorgui Teyrouz
Yorgui Teyrouz started his enterprise in university, where he spent day and night answering calls. Courtesy Yorgui Teyrouz

The social entrepreneur Yorgui Teyrouz, a 28-year-old pharmacist, lost a friend in 2007 when there was no match available for his rare AB negative blood type in a Beirut hospital. Since then he has been working to better the blood donation cause in his home nation through his social enterprise Donner Sang Compter (“to give without expecting anything in return”). The country currently relies on the “replacement system”, which involves hospitals asking patients in need to solicit donations from friends and family to keep blood stocks replenished. Mr Teyrouz, 28, was in Dubai last month to talk at the panel session “Youth engagement in development: How social entrepreneurs are making a difference” organised by PepsiCo.

What made you start the blood donation service?

As a scout for 15 years, I was taught from a very young age to support and help people in need. I think the turning point for me was when I joined the Red Cross in 2003 and recognised the need for a new system for donating blood in Lebanon. I also experienced personal tragedy in April 2007, when a friend passed away after his family failed to find enough blood donors compatible with his rare blood type. I guess you could say that was the day I founded Donner Sang Compter.

Did you realise the amount of work involved?

I was still in university, trying to finish my BSc in pharmacy. I never had the intention to start something so big. I was just trying to help one patient at a time. Word spread around the country about what I was doing even before I had a growth strategy in place.

What did you have to do?

At first, I was simply linking potential donors to patients in need and the majority of the donors were within my personal circle of friends and family. In May 2009 I was awarded US$50,000 from the King Abdullah II award for Youth Innovation and Achievement in Jordan, which enabled me to start planning, hiring and branding. In 2014, I was selected to take part in the Synergos Arab World Social Innovators Program, which provides support and guidance for young Arabs running social enterprises in partnership with PepsiCo; this has enabled me to develop many managerial and communication skills. To date, DSC has compiled a database of more than 15,000 people willing to donate blood to any person in need at any hospital or clinic. Since January 2010, DSC has helped more than 32,000 patients.

Was it a daunting project to take on?

I have made a great deal of sacrifices over the years. I used to spend all day and night answering calls on my own before our first funding opportunity and it took me nine years instead of five to graduate from university. At times I felt that the world was against me; even my family didn’t understand why I was failing classes to help strangers. But I don’t regret anything, what I have achieved has been worth it.

Did the government help?

I think DSC has proved itself over the years. Today we have a good relationship with government entities and affiliations, and there are plans to start working more together on policies and changing the current system. There is a famous quote from John F Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”. Lebanese are taught from a young age to rely on themselves and find ways to become independent. This is also in keeping with the scout movement’s principles.

What was the response from the public?

The Scouts of Lebanon have been very involved and supportive of the DSC over the years. We have also had some great support from those on social media, which offered our cause a heroic and fun aspect that enabled us to promote blood donation.

Do you now earn a living from this enterprise?

I do not take any salary. My priority is to delegate as much as I can, which is why we now have 12 full-time employees.

What about the future?

I have a number of ideas in mind for social welfare campaigns but I’m a little hesitant to start anything new because there is still so much to be done in terms of helping the blood donation cause in Lebanon.

ascott@thenational.ae

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Published: June 15, 2014 04:00 AM

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