Rajani Bhakta and her son, Saajan, support their community of Wichita, Kansas, by serving as American Red Cross blood donors and volunteers. If you ask either about their most memorable volunteer experience, each will talk about the satisfaction of coordinating their first community blood drive.
“It was so much fun to plan and recruit blood donors!” Saajan said. “It was very exciting to see that so many people were eager to give the gift of life!” Rajani’s memories of the first blood drive she coordinated are equally as vivid. “I saw all of my hard work and recruiting pay off,” she said. “I saw the tangible results of human blood that would move on to save lives.”
The Need for Blood
Donating blood gives someone “a second chance at life,” Rajani said, “more birthdays, more smiles, more laughs, more hugs and more opportunity. If you are capable of making this happen, why not?”
Rajani began coordinating blood drives 13 years ago, recruiting other minority friends and family who had never been asked and who were unaware of the benefits. She says once people understood that a donation of their blood could help save so many lives, they were willing first-time donors, and many still donate on a regular basis.
Last year Rajani joined the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross Central Plains Blood Services Region. Now part of the leadership team responsible for increasing blood donations in the region, she gives blood herself every 56 days and recruits others to do the same.
Led by Example
Saajan Bhakta’s Red Cross experiences parallel those of his mother. “My mom not only told me about the importance of volunteering at a young age, she SHOWED me the importance,” he said. “I was able to see her hard work pay off when innocent patients were provided with a second chance at life.”
At eight years old, Saajan started informally addressing mail and sorting things at the blood services office. When 15 he moved into the donor center as a greeter. On the day he turned 16 Saajan began donating blood, and, like his mother, describes himself as passionate about giving the gift of life.
Now 18, Saajan organizes blood drives throughout the year, and also holds a Board of Directors position. In addition to volunteering with the Red Cross, he runs his own nonprofit organization that aids global poverty.
“Serving as a volunteer . . . has transformed my life,” Saajan mussed. “It has taught me the importance of love, compassion and respect.” He thanks his mother for leading by example, and for being such a positive role model.
Rajani offers a formula for inspiring youth to serve. Expose them to charity work when they are young, and be a volunteer yourself. “Volunteering is a very important element in life,” she said. “It not only teaches us the importance of humbleness, it creates strong bonds with the community that helps us learn, grow and become stronger individuals.”