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Sikh Nation blood drive, largest of its kind in Canada, underway in Surrey

Sikh Nation volunteers set up at Princess Margaret Secondary in Surrey on Saturday. Global News

Canada’s largest grassroots blood drive is getting underway, with donors rolling up their sleeves Saturday where the campaign began more than 20 years ago — Surrey, B.C.

Canadian Blood Services estimates the Sikh Nation campaign has saved more than 160,000 lives and spread to 27 communities across the country since it began in 1999. Countless others have benefitted around the world, thanks to the movement going global.

The event was originally started to commemorate the tragic loss of thousands of lives in India’s anti-Sikh riots in 1984.

Read more: Canadian Blood Services expands eligibility for some gay men to donate plasma at certain clinics

“We all feel it’s really, really important, since it’s the commemoration of such a tragic event,” volunteer Sukhdeep Singh told Global News.

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“(It’s about) taking people out from sadness and making something positive and hoping for peace — and not just hoping, I believe, but action. Doing something towards humanity, saving lives and protecting others.”

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In a normal year, events like Saturday’s at Princess Margaret Secondary would see a lineup of hundreds of people preparing to give blood.

This year, organizers are expecting large numbers of donors, but have shifted to an appointment-based model to maintain physical distancing and COVID-19 safety.

David Patterson, Canadian Blood Services director of donor relations and collections for British Columbia and Yukon, said the need for blood donors is always growing.

Read more: Canadian Blood Services under strain as eased COVID-19 rules increase demand

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“Every minute of every day in Canada somebody needs blood. So the work of this tireless group of volunteers does every year is incredible,” he said.

Patterson said the organization needs to add 100,000 new blood donors every year just to make up for former donors who pass away, develop medical conditions, or cease donating for other personal reasons.

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Earlier this week, the Sikh Nation was hailed in the B.C. legislature as the province proclaimed November as Sikh Nation Blood Donation Month.

While organizers are proud of the way the event has grown, Singh said service to the community shouldn’t be thought of as anything special.

Read more: Canada needs over 23,000 blood donors this month to meet urgent demand, agency says

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“It’s part of our responsibility,” he said. “It’s about being in such a beautiful country where we have all the privileges and all the things we are enjoying, we have a responsibility towards our community, towards our society and humanity at large.”

The Sikh Nation campaign is open to people of all faiths and backgrounds, so long as they are eligible to donate blood.

You can find out more on how to participate on the Sikh Nation webpage.

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