A Culture of Sharing is at the Heart of Himawari’s Business Model

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From left: Taing Sreypichra, a member of the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia from Kandal province, UYFC Kandal deputy director Chy Sivutha, Himawari Hotel Apartments director Andrew Tay, National Blood Transfusion Centre director Dr. Hok Kimcheng and Love Club member Eang Rothmony at the entrance of Himawari Hotel Apartments.

The director of Phnom Penh’s most luxurious and friendliest hotel was first in line at its blood donation drive on Saturday morning, explaining that he wanted to demonstrate his personal commitment to solving one of Cambodia’s most urgent needs: the shortage of blood for life-saving transfusions.
 
He was also excited. “Turnout was better than expected,” Mr. Andrew Tay said, explaining that the event was timed to help raise awareness about the need to donate blood ahead of World Blood Donation Day on June 14. He’s also eager to alter perceptions about donating blood in a country where the shortage of voluntary donated blood is acute. 
 
“We’re providing a five-star environment to help alter perceptions about voluntary blood donations,” Mr. Tay explained. 
 
Only about one-third of all blood used in transfusions in Cambodia is taken from voluntary donors, which allows it to be properly screened for viruses before it is used, explains Dr. Hok Kimcheng of the National Blood Transfusion Centre (NBTC). The centre provides blood (and blood components like plasma) free of charge to hospitals and clinics. More often, however, family members of patients donate blood when the need arises, but this carries risks. The presence of some viruses, like HIV, are not detected by screening until – in some cases – several weeks after infection. This means a donor who has been recently infected with the virus that causes AIDS can inadvertently infect a loved one if he or she donates blood at the last minute. 
 
“Donate blood. Do it now. Do it often,” Mr. Tay says. “Don’t wait till disaster strikes. Don’t wait till your relative is in the hospital.”
 
A CULTURE OF SHARING
 
Saturday morning’s blood donation drive at Himawari Hotel Apartments saw the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, St John Ambulance Phnom Penh, and The Love Club conduct the drive along with the NBCT. 
 
Sweet biscuits and refreshments were provided by BreadTalk. “Collaboration is vital to ensuring success,” Mr. Tay said. “This is not just about the role of government. We need to send a message to all Cambodians about the importance of donating blood. We need to increase awareness and involve more partners in the effort.”
 
He’s also keen to help nurture what he refers to “a culture of sharing” among his staff as well as Cambodia. “We need to think beyond the family and help people we do not know. To donate blood is very personal. You are saving the life of someone you do not know,” Mr. Tay explains.
 
Mr. Tay said he was not concerned that some guests at the five-star Himawari Hotel Apartments might find it disconcerting to observe a blood donation drive taking place. “I just think about the lives we are saving,” he explains.
 
2020 VISION
 
Those involved in Saturday’s five-star blood donation drive have a single goal: to ensure that the NBTC has enough voluntarily donated blood to supply all Cambodians who need transfusions by 2020. To accomplish this they are focusing on youths, who comprise the majority of the kingdom’s population and whose attitudes are easier to change. 
 
The Love Club Cambodia, for example, is using Facebook to spread its message, including posting short videos that explain the health benefits of donating blood (it reduces the risk of cancer, for example) and encourage viewers who say they love their country by demonstrating this with action.
 
The Love Club is also launching an app that will provide users with information about donating blood and inform them where and when they can do so. 
 
St. John Ambulance Phnom Penh, which focuses on first aid training, is also prioritising blood donations. Mr. Tay, who is a member of the global group, is proud to note that Cambodia is the only nation in ASEAN (excluding members of the Commonwealth) where it has a chapter. 
 
At the same time, the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia – which covers every province in the country – is encouraging youths nationwide to join the effort to ensure all Cambodians have access to safe blood when they need a transfusion. 
 
MAKING THE SWITCH
 
Education and trust are two factors that are necessary to convince more Cambodians to voluntarily donate blood regularly, NBTC director Dr. Hok Kimcheng explains. Cambodians lack awareness about the importance of donating blood. “They don’t know why they should,” he says. Others think it may be unsafe to donate, and some lack confidence in the management system for donated blood. They worry that the NBTC may sell donated blood, the director explains. This is false. Hospitals and clinics can charge for care and treatment, but it is illegal for them to charge for blood received from the NBTC.
 
Overcoming misinformation and a lack of knowledge is critical to increasing the supply of safe blood for transfusions. Cambodia could have enough safe blood for transfusions if just one percent of the population becomes regular, voluntary donors, Mr. Hok notes. It is a goal he, and others involved in the effort to increase donations, believe can be accomplished by 2020. “We just need 55,000 units per year,” Dr. Hok explains.
 
A FAMILY TRADITION
 
Mr. Tay was unconcerned that that some guests at his hotel might find it disconcerting to see a blood donation drive in the lobby. “I just think about the lives we are saving,” he says.
 
He believes that giving is simply part of business. “My late father’s motto was that no matter where we do business we have to give back to society,” he explains. This starts with his employees, all of whom have health insurance, and are encouraged to participate in a culture of sharing that is not only good for the country but also good for business. 
 
“Activities like this motivate staff. People strive to serve a higher purpose and any company that can tap into this fundamental motivation will see an increase in staff morale. We are extending the idea of family to include people we do not even know.”

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