Each spring, up to 900 students volunteer at over 40 Birmingham nonprofit partner organizations during Samford Gives Back, an annual day of service. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, for the Mann Center and its student leadership team who plans the event, reimagining how to still encourage service was more urgent than ever.
As a senior Micah Fellow and regular American Red Cross blood donor since high school, Samford Gives Back’s student director, Ashley Layman, is keenly aware of the dire need to replenish the nation’s blood supply. The knowledge that the pandemic has caused an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations inspired Layman and the Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership team to plan a virtual blood drive, converting Samford Gives Back to Samford Gives Blood beginning April 6. The campaign team is partnering with the American Red Cross to encourage students, alumni and university employees to safely fight COVID-19 by donating blood through local Red Cross drives across the nation.
“Responding to the crisis in a proactive yet, safe way is important,” Layman said.
The Red Cross has implemented extra safety precautions to promote health and social distancing even while saving lives.
“We all have a role to play. Even while staying safe, there’s always something we can do to help those who are in real danger as a result of this virus,” said Allison Nanni, associate director of the Mann Center.
During a time when members of the university community are physically distant from campus and unsure about safe ways to make a difference, a blood drive offers a way to serve collectively.
Throughout April, the Mann Center will track donation locations through a GIS map visually demonstrating in real time where students, families, alumni, friends and employees are donating around the world. The map was created by senior public health major and University Fellow, Joyeuse Senga, who saw its development as a real-world application of her two academic interests.
“This project is a good opportunity for real-world practice of what I’m learning in the in the geography course I’m taking right now. By creating this map and survey, I’m able to combine what I’ve learned about epidemiology and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to demonstrate that blood donation is a practical way people can contribute during a time of need,” she said.
Blood donors can participate in the map tracking by taking a simple four-question survey that documents their Samford affiliation, donation location and gives them an option to take and post a photo. Their data is automatically uploaded to a dashboard that displays Samford’s global blood drive participation.