Over 10 Year Old Dream Comes To Life for Many, and a Big Squad Cheer!

“Dreams that take longer to happen, often spring to life when we least expect it, and unfold beyond our wildest imaginations. And the boulders we saw as obstacles along the way, were really allies in finding our flow forward on the road to great success.” –  tacogirl. 

Making a mountain into a molehill is not an easy task, but it’s one so many of us believe strongly in regarding Blood Collection in Belize.

My training in blood drives started in 2014 when a few of my friends and I wrote standard operating procedures for blood drives in Belize, and starting a youth club. Our work included plans for increasing blood drives on Ambergris, better emergency mobilization, and expanding with country wide blood collection. This was done under the guidance of Lily Bowman, the Director General of the Belize Red Cross.

For the purpose of my story, It does not matter why our work came to an abrupt halt…. or that our grand plans sat on a shelf for 10 years! 

What matters most is that it’s coming to life in the most incredible way, at the perfect time. A great group of businesses and people are teaming up with Island Donors Squad (IDS) to help us increase awareness, hold more frequent drives on Ambergris, eventually get countrywide, and so much more.

In case you did not see our first press release, Island Donors Squad was born after I had the opportunity to team with Nurse Cora Guillen – General Manager at Ambergris Hope Hospital, Rotary Club of Ambergris Caye – President Susan Danner Fenske and Rotarian – Felecia Fischell. We formed IDS and are working closely with Belize National Blood Transfusion Services (BNBTS). We share a mutual goal, which is to increase blood collection and related services on the island and beyond.

San Pedro Town Council Stepped Up

We greatly appreciate the support of Mayor Wally Nunez, and the San Pedro Town Council, Miguel Pere, and all the other council staff. All of you were delightful to work with and instantly helpful, including sharing a pint.

For those of you who might not know, Wally and Miguel have both been Cancer Society volunteers, and know the challenges of blood drives first hand. Mayor Wally, Miguel and the San Pedro Town Council are essential to our forward motion. Our council collaboration is aligned with countrywide growth and continued local success on this important mission.

I was also grateful that Mayor Wally’s Dad, Wally Nunez Sr, stopped at our Dolla Drive, unfortunately I could not get a picture as I was hula hooping with our megaphone in hand.


Inaugural Drive day at Ambergris Hope Hospital was a Rave

Although we had set the bar high with a goal of 80 pints, and collected 11, the drive was still considered a huge success in so many ways. We are educating the public, and forming important alliances countrywide.   

Below are some exciting Drive Day highlights:

  • Island Youth Squad buoyed our lofty goals amassing over $500 in our dolla drive to help this important cause. Supervised manning of the intake computer was also an option.
  • We started a new donor database along with an 0-  rare blood type list of 4 people on Ambergris Caye.
  • IDS identified an immediate need from BNBTS to recruit donors ages 18 – 24.
  • Founding squad members Rotary President Susan Danner Fenske and myself, tacogirl, donated 2 pints of replacement blood to a married couple in the midst of a major medical emergency.

We believe people experiencing a medical emergency should not have the added stress of self advocating for blood to replace what they needed back into the blood bank.

  • In the week leading up to the drive IDS volunteers responded to a patient’s post on social media needing two pints for his immediate transfusion. Within hours communications were linked and blood released for the patient. IDS has earmarked 2 units collected at the inaugural drive to be assigned to this Ambergris resident who is now back on the island and recuperating.
  • A pregnant woman in Corozal sought replacement blood information for her pregnancy and also had a request for future blood help. Corozal district is another logical place for IDS to do a drive; one of the Belize Transfusion staff, Neidy, lives there. 

We are identifying needs and working on solutions. It’s clear the country of Belize needs an increase in voluntary donors.

  • Placencia reached out through Island Donors Squad Facebook page to get our assistance with doing a drive there.
  • Immediate Ambergris Caye expansion and education. Community health worker Martha Rosado invited IDS to do health fairs and offered assistance in building our donor base, island wide.
  • In the week after the drive two more mainland requests for help have come through. There is an immediate need for rare blood type 0- in Belize City and a second need in Corozal.
  • We received an offer for professional research assistance from a frequent traveler to Ambergris who is also a blood bank staff at a major trauma hospital in San Diego. A retired teacher abroad is trying to source much needed laptops for IDS admin and Youth Squad.

If you are visiting San Pedro, please consider helping IDS by bringing a donation of some general office supplies for our blood drives.

  1. We need a good supply of sturdy red clipboards.
  2. Lots of badge holders and lanyards so we can get to know each other easier.
  3. Printed logo materials.
  4. We have other basic needs as well, please email me with “IDS donation” in the subject line if you can help us by bringing something down when you visit Belize. Thank you.

First 15 and Faces of Blood

Thanks to the help of local businesses, Belize Chocolate and Caye Coffee Roasting Co. Ltd., Island Donors Squad has pioneered the “first 15” program to help as an incentive to recruit donors. This time around 11 donors received a truffle and a coffee packet.

We also introduced “the Faces of Blood” to help people make a connection to the importance of donating or being someone’s replacement blood. (Here in Belize you need to replace the amount you use during hospitalization.) And in this case, helping bring awareness to different blood related needs within the community and country as you will see in the red text..


Why Playa de Sala Donated Mocktails

Owner Forrest Sala strongly believes in our mission on a deeper level. Below is her story.

A well-known Canadian artist, living on Ambergris Caye, was at Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, in Belize City, losing blood and in need of 14 pints. His Canadian daughter, also a Belize business owner, was frantically trying to find blood donors willing to travel to Belize City from Ambergris Caye.

Upon sharing their need on the tacogirl.com Facebook page, people wanted to know where they could donate on Ambergris Caye, to which the standard response, at this moment, is, “Nowhere”.

Changing this is a high priority for IDS.

This is Forrest Sala’s testimonial from the perspective of her critical need for blood, while caring for her ailing father: “It was a very frustrating experience, trying to secure enough blood for my Dad on short notice. I had two doctors telling me I needed to try harder to get people in Belize City to donate blood when I don’t know anybody in the city and there is no emergency donor contact list. I had more than enough local community members volunteering to donate, if they could do so on Ambergris Caye.”.

Island Donors Squad is drafting a protocol to do emergency blood drives for those living on Ambergris Caye. We are networking with our Community health worker and other districts to help people find donors by getting the word out.


And so ends this chapter of My Story

Felecia and I made it through, organizing whirling dervish style, with assistance from Nurse Cora and Susan along the way. Right up to the end we were asking favors and gratefully getting answers.

In the case of our last dinner, and drive day decorations, it was, “han wash han” (a Kriol saying, hand wash hand). We were scrambling for Friday night dinner for the 5 BNBTS staff, and Sandbar Beachfront Restaurant and Bar came through with a c-note and that made our decision easy – Pupuseria El Salvadoreño. It was so easy Felecia was able to do a drive by reservation on the way to the water taxi to greet the Belize City crew. During dinner, she spotted the perfect red fabric table cloth needed for drive day and was able to borrow it from the restaurant.

I am still impressed that we pulled off breakfast, a parade, and managed to get the blood drive supplies from an overcrowded water taxi to the drive almost on time. It was a joy to find the BNBTS staff and squad volunteers with Brooklyn Bagels on the beach at Caribbean Villas. And so much fun driving the lead cart, (from Rocks Golf Cart Rentals) with 3 of the BNTBS to our inaugural blood drive.


More local businesses that made the Blood Drive a success

We can not do this without your help.

More Businesses who stepped up to help: Caye to the Heart, La Divina Providencia, San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi, The Village Market, and Tropicana Golf Carts. (Some are listed throughout.)

More Helpful People

Five staff from Belize National Blood Transfusion Services (BNBTS): Mariela Cho, Adrian Martinez, Erinn Walford, Neidy Rodriguez, Nyasha Viamille.

Squad bakers: Gloria Affigne, Glen Sharer-Clouatre, and Island Rosemary.

Youth Squad: Abner Balab, Rochelle Acosta, Jasmine Euceda, Jatziris Juarez, and Estrella Roano.

Other Squad volunteers: Pam Ridge Sabet, Dominic Hardman and Kay Joy Hardiman, Carol Taylor, Deborah Stacy, Michelle Sauer-Ward, Pete Davis, Nurse Cora, Susan Danner Fenske, tacogirl, and Felecia Fischell.

Please follow our progress by liking our facebook page, and reach out to Island Donors Squad FB Messenger to volunteer, make a contribution, get on our email or donor list.

Thank you for helping Island Donors Squad, Belize National Blood Transfusion Services and Belize Blood Donors Association do what it takes to Strengthen Blood Collection in Belize!


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