The Loy9 team here in Phnom Penh are getting
used to rising to a challenge. Last year, as a finale to our first TV series,
we broke the world record for the largest ever Madison dance. But this time we
had set ourselves a far harder task. This time, we needed to get 999 people to
donate blood in nine different locations in Cambodia in just nine days.

Called Loy999, the blood drive
was the second Big Challenge of our multimedia youth project Loy9, which encourages young Cambodian
people to contribute to society and become involved in local and national
decision making. 

And as the event manager for Loy9,
it was my job to make sure that our events across the country attracted enough
blood donors to hit our target. 

The challenge

We knew it wasn't going to be easy. Last year we succeeded in getting
over 900 young people to come and dance the Madison in a windy square in Phnom
Penh. But that was just convincing people to come and dance – giving blood is
altogether another matter! 

Not only are people often afraid of needles but in Cambodia, some people
also think blood donation can make you ill and that you won’t recover after donation.

So the most important thing we had to communicate to young people was
how giving blood is safe, not painful and a chance for people to really
contribute to society.

How we did it

Our first step was to spend a month brainstorming ideas about how to
make each blood drive an event young people wouldn’t miss.

And while we came up with ideas for the events themselves, we were
careful to do the groundwork by identifying useful partners and making sure
young people in our nine target locations - Battambang, Siem Reap, Kompong
Cham, Sihanoukville, and three different places in Phnom Penh City - knew as
much about blood donation as possible.

We teamed up with Cambodia's National Blood Transfusion Centre (NBTC) and
the United Nations Volunteers programme, and also partnered with local
hospitals and other organisations who could host the drives.

Then we lined up workshops across the country covering what people can
expect when they give blood, the health and safety facts about donation - and,
of course, how it can save lives.

We also showed clips at the workshops from our much-loved TV drama, in
which the drama’s main character Metrey successfully persuades her fellow
students to donate blood on Valentine's Day to express their affection for
their loved ones. 

And then a month before the event, I organised training for our
volunteers so they knew all about blood donation and could answer donors' questions. 

The Big Challenge

But the real test was only just beginning: how do you get 999 people to
show up to nine events and give blood in just nine days? The answer: put on a
really good show.

So at each of the blood drives across Cambodia, not only did we play
clips of the Loy9 TV show but we also
had bands and singers performing live, dancing competitions and
performances,  stand-up comedy acts,
games hosted by the Loy9 presenters - and even a magic show! 

The audience filled out registration forms and completed a health test before donating blood and then having a drink and some food - all while enjoying
the performances on stage. 

The 999th donor

But then it was our ninth and final day and we only had one hour left to
hit our target.

But suddenly, the excitement mounted as word got round that the 999th
blood donor was getting ready and the Loy9 team ran to interview him.

17-year-old Chan Ratana had never given blood before and as the nurse
set up the equipment, his friends gathered around to cheer him on.

After he had given blood, he said, said "I'm fine and in fact, I feel
great. I decided to come and volunteer for a blood donation because I wanted to
help and support Loy9 and because I believe my friends. They told me
that it doesn’t affect my health and it doesn’t hurt. Now I see that's true."

I told him that I couldn't agree more as I had just given blood that day
for the very first time too!

With Ratana and all the other donors' help, we had done it: 999 donors
in nine locations in just nine days.  All
the preparation and hard work was worth it.

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