Blood cancer charity in ‘pioneering’ council scheme

A CHARITY has launched a pioneering partnership with Scotland’s largest local authority to sign up secondary school pupils as stem cell donors.

Twenty three pupils at Shawlands Academy have pledged to save a stranger's life. Picture: Robert Perry

The joint initiative between the Anthony Nolan Trust and Glasgow City Council has already signed up nearly two dozen teenagers who could be called upon to help those in need of a transplant.

It is the first time the blood cancer charity has teamed up with a council and it hopes the drive will encourage other teenagers to come forward and sign up.

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Twenty three pupils at the city’s Shawlands Academy have pledged to save a stranger’s life, by joining the trust’s register as part of its Register & Be a Lifesaver programme.

The partnership came about thanks to the campaigning efforts of Noreen Siddiqui from Glasgow, whose daughter, Ayesha, has been searching for a stem cell or bone marrow donor since April 2011, when she was diagnosed with leukaemia.

The 11 year-old has since been matched with a donor and mother hopes the publicity surrounding the case will help the trust’s work.

She said: “It’s been a rollercoaster of a week, with Ayesha finally receiving her long-awaited stem cell transplant and beginning her road to recovery. Seeing these selfless Glasgow teenagers joining the Anthony Nolan register just days later means a great deal to us all, as any one of them could end up saving the life of a child like Ayesha in the future.

“I’m very grateful to the council for being so supportive to the idea when I first approached them and told them all about our vision of educating young people all over Scotland, through the Register & Be a Lifesaver programme.”

The trust is working with Glasgow City Council to educate 16 to 18-year-olds about how they can save lives by donating stem cells as well as blood and organs.

As well as Shawlands Academy, the programme has been rolled out to other schools in the city - including Rosshall and St Paul’s - in an attempt to bolster numbers among a key demographic.

Young people are in urgent demand as stem cell donors, as research shows they are the most likely to save a life and have better outcomes for patients. Eventually, it is hoped the scheme will be carried out across all of Scotland.

Amy Bartlett, regional register development manager at Anthony Nolan, said: “Shawlands’ students have shown that young people in Scotland do have the selflessness and the maturity to save lives, once they’re informed about how easy it is to join the Anthony Nolan register.

“This is the first time we’ve partnered with a council in this way in order to spread our lifesaving message, and we hope this will be the first step towards rolling out a nationwide Register & Be a Lifesaver programme, ensuring all 16 to 18-year-olds in Scotland have the opportunity to learn more about donating stem cells, blood and organs.”

Maureen McKenna, executive director of education services at Glasgow City Council, said: “I’m thrilled that Shawlands, St Paul’s and Rosshall have got involved in this initiative.

“What makes our scheme in Glasgow so unique is that it’s being driven by the young people themselves, empowering them to make their own lifesaving decisions about stem cell, blood and organ donation.

“The model is focused around Anthony Nolan’s volunteers visiting these S6 pupils to give talks and run recruitment events, while building young people’s leadership skills by. If successful, we hope this could provide a model for other schools and councils to work towards across Scotland.”