World Blood Donor Day - Saturday June 14th

Will you be a blood donor on this year’s annual Blood Donor Day?

Saturday June 14th is World Blood Donor Day. Can you give blood? Do you? Find out why it’s never been more important to consider giving blood. World Blood Donor Day is an annual campaign promoted by the World Health Organisation on a global level, and this year’s theme is giving blood for those who give life: donating blood for mothers in need all over the world. Maternal death is still a very real risk to women in all countries, not just in the developing world, and there is a continued need fro timely access to safe blood and blood products. What can you do to help? If you are already a blood donor, take time this month to contact the blood donation service and book your next appointment. It couldn’t be easier, the blood.co.uk website has a fast and user-friendly session search facility, text message reminders, and email confirmation. Or you can pick up the phone and book in person. If you’ve never donated blood, make this the month that you seriously consider it. Not everyone is eligible, but check the criteria on the blood.co.uk website and - if you are able to donate - book your first session. Need some more convincing? Here are just a few compelling reasons to become a blood donor.

  • 8% of donors at blood donation sessions will (on average) be donating for the first time. You won’t be alone, and you’ll be in very good hands.
  • Over 25% of us require blood at least once in our lifetime
  • Each blood donation can help as many as three people
  • 107 million blood donations are collected globally every year and approximately half of these are collected in the high-income countries
  • In low-income countries, up to 65% of blood transfusions are given to children under five years of age

Why not organise a blood donation drive at your workplace? Larger workplaces could think about working with the blood service to facilitate regular blood donation sessions on-site. Smaller businesses could easily find a convenient local donation session and encourage employees to book on.

How the “Big Lunch” is tackling isolation

What are you doing on Sunday 1st June? Here’s an idea: join in with the Eden Project’s Big Lunch and reach out to help tackle loneliness. Since 2009, The Big Lunch has been an annual event which uses a very simple idea to tackle isolation and loneliness in local communities. By asking people to have lunch with their neighbours, The Big Lunch hopes to create a network of human contact and interaction which will cover the UK. Although The Big Lunch itself is just one lunch, on one Sunday in June, the aim is to encourage more interaction on a more regular basis between neighbours. Do you know your neighbours? When did you last speak to them? Who lives next door: is it a family, a single person, an elderly couple, a bereaved person, a single parent with children? Perhaps a divorcee or widower? Or a young person who lives alone? Loneliness can be tricky to assess, and sometimes the only way to find out whether or not people are living in isolation and loneliness is to reach out. The Big Lunch gives us all a reason (if we need one) to reach out to our neighbours in one simple act of warmth, community and friendship. A 2008 study (“Changing UK, the way we live now”) showed that community fragmentation has led to people’s sense of belonging dropping dramatically over the past 40 years. Organise or take part in a Big Lunch event and you could help an isolated neighbour feel more included in their own community, boost their mental wellbeing, and make yourself a new friend in the process. Or perhaps your kids or partner might make a new connection which benefits them. There’s really no knowing what you’ll discover about the people who live next-door! Different generations, backgrounds and lifestyles will get the opportunity to share stories and interests. You might be surprised by what you find out about the people who live just a few feet away. Last year 3.65 million people took part in The Big Lunch, using street parties, community spaces and gardens to create neighbourly outreach events. How will you take part in The Big Lunch this year? You could get several neighbours together for a garden lunch, organise a big street party, or have your neighbours round for a roast. It’s up to you: all it takes is one person to reach out and offer the spirit of neighbourly friendship.

Understanding the effects of loneliness on wellbeing

The Big Lunch is a great initiative which aims to tackle isolation and fragmentation in local communities. Why is it so important to be aware of loneliness even in apparently busy, happy people? Loneliness has been called the biggest social problem of modern life, but it’s often hidden and very difficult to accurately assess. By reaching out to people we see regularly (but perhaps don’t speak to), we have the chance to build support networks and contacts that can make social groups stronger. It could be people you see on your commute or dog walks, colleagues or work suppliers, or neighbours. In the case of neighbours, this kind of positive, intentional outreach can make people feel much better about their place in society and their immediate community. As humans, we all want to feel part of a tribe, a team or a local community. Reaching out to neighbours doesn’t just benefit them, it actually helps boost our own sense of wellbeing as we feel more connected to our communities. Social capital is important. Interactive social networks between people have real value and can even equip people with the tools to tackle deeper challenges in their lives. According to The Big Lunch, there was a 7% annual drop in perceived trust between neighbours in the years 2003-2005. In fact, social trust in the UK is now amongst the lowest in Europe. Estimates suggest there will be 2-million more single-person households by 2019. It’s time to reach out. Let The Big Lunch on Sunday 1st June be a springboard for you to make connections with colleagues and neighbours, but make 2014 the year that you maintain community connections with people you see regularly, but don’t often speak to. It could make all the difference to their wellbeing - and yours.

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