Saanich volunteer earns national recognition

Sheetal Singla receives Honouring Our Lifeblood award at a gala in Ottawa last week

Saanich’s Sheetal Singla was recently recognized for her volunteer efforts at the Canadian Blood Services annual awards gala

Saanich’s Sheetal Singla was recently recognized for her volunteer efforts at the Canadian Blood Services annual awards gala

As August neared a close, the local Canadian Blood Services chapter was running so low on blood units it nearly sent a warning to local hospitals it would be unable to supply blood.

Luckily, a media blitz and a community engagement campaign helped turn that around, said Natasha Wakaruk, volunteer co-ordinator for the Canadian Blood Services office in Saanich.

Hundreds stepped up in recent weeks to bring the local bank up from 11,000 units to 32,000 units, and growing.

Some of those are coming from the 195 (committed) donors recruited at the Saanich Fair, thanks to a table co-organized and run by Sheetal Singla, a resident on Cordova Ridge. It’s common for Singla to be part of weekend campaigns such as the Saanich Fair, as she convinced 261 donors to sign their name on the dotted line during Rock The Shores earlier this summer, and engaged people at Christmas fairs, health shows and shopping malls.

It’s that type of effort that earned Singla the nomination as a 2016 recipient of the Honouring Our Lifeblood award, which she received at last week’s annual gala in Ottawa. She is one of six individuals being recognized this year in the volunteer award category and one of two recipients for the B.C. and Yukon region. “It’s exciting, I didn’t know I was going to win the award so I’m [happy to have had the chance to go on] a trip to Ottawa,” Singla said.

Singla came into volunteering with CBS when her best friend was a regular donor. Singla was unable to donate but wanted to see if there was anything she could bring into the organization. It’s worked out quite well, says CBS spokesperson Marcelo Dominguez.

“Sheetal always approaches her volunteer roles with zeal,” Dominguez said. “Her dedication to CBS has made her integral to donor recruitment efforts in Victoria, as she’s responsible for holding some of Vancouver Island’s most successful recruitment events.”

During the week, Singla, an accountant, is a senior financial analyst with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. Singla not only volunteers as a community leader to recruit donors for CBS but is registered to recruit donors for the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network and sits on the Regional Liaison Committee. And she also volunteers with the Canadian Cancer Society.

Singla’s efforts are lauded by the staff at the CBS donor clinic on Saanich Road across from Uptown, but the amount of volunteer hours she puts in for CBS is actually quite minimal, she says.

“It’s only a couple of days per month, usually,” Singla said. “The staff at the office make it easier for me to want to keep volunteering. They are energetic, fun, resourceful and just amazing people to work for.”

Recruiting donors is a constant challenge for the Canadian Blood Services agency, and it wouldn’t happen without volunteers, Wakaruk said.

“We lose 40 per cent of donors every year due to various reasons, such as the Zika virus, or tattoos, piercings, and people moving away.”

Most of those are temporary, as there is a six-month wait period for tattoos and piercings, and for those who’ve recently travelled to a country where the Zika virus is active.

But the reality is 50 per cent of British Columbians are capable of donating blood yet only 2.7 per cent actually do, Singla said.

“Labour Day happens to be the most demanding weekend of the year,” Singla said. “The resources always go down then.”

To donate blood in Greater Victoria, visit 3449 Saanich Rd. from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every second Saturday.  Visit blood.ca for more information.