Many of you know the story of Pia Awal, a young woman whose search for a bone marrow donor a couple of years ago captured the attention of the international news media and helped bring attention to the woeful lack of South Asian participation in bone marrow registries. Awal, fiance Tim Dutta (click on photo on right for high-rez version) and their MatchPia efforts were profiled in major publications and on shows such as "Good Morning America" and the "Today" show. A match was eventually found and they started a formal nonprofit that kept the MatchPia name and effort going to benefit others.
Dutta and MatchPia are now going to the largest source of potential donors in the world, India itself. From a press release (in full below):
U.S.-based Matchpia.org, undertakes one of the largest corporate social responsibility projects in India. With its primary focus to promote the importance of educating and recruiting individuals to becoming “lifesaving” bone marrow and stem cell donors, Matchpia has recently taken its efforts to creating the first operational and robust “unrelated” donor registry in India.
SAJAforum asked Dutta three questions about the effort, lessons learned and about Awal's progress (his contacts, a video clip and other info are below).
SAJAforum.org: What are three things you have learned doing this India project?
TIM DUTTA: First: If you educate humanity, humanity will raise to the occasion. This was clearly evident in our campaign in the US and now India. People are generally “good” in their beliefs and intentions. It is often an “outside” driving force that can mobilize and focus a community to come together in saving humanity. Interesting to observe, once educated and familiar with the processes, our registered donors in India have not only gotten tested, but also preceded further in wanting to volunteer and conduct further donor drives in their organizations. Our core concepts of empowering people with knowledge, and allowing them to self select how they want to participate with this cause is also working in India. Lesson learned: Education is key to saving humanity, the more one knows’ the better the one can make a conscious decision to contribute. India is no different from any other country.
Second: To everyone’s perception of India being only about “outsourcing” and companies full of employees that come to work in odd hours like “robots”. Outsourcing is relevant and exists in a big way, but the perceptions of these companies are definitely misunderstood. These companies are much like the companies in the US, they have the same challenges as US companies in making a profit and continuingly reducing costs. Their management teams are usually comprised of Indians who are NRI’s and those who lived in India all their lives. Importantly, most of their employee pools are young and vibrant in contributing to society and doing what they can to help humanity.
There are many good “social causes” these companies support locally and
nationally that are great. And by all means we appreciate their good work, as
our approach is not to compete with any other cause. Our approach is clearly
to ensure the companies realize the impact of Corporate Social Responsibility,
and how their employees can directly impact the South Asian community
globally. A donor match can serve any South Asian patient in need anywhere
in the world.
We realized that if we take the time to understand the company culture, we
could be a part of the culture (contributing to nurturing the culture, instead
of fighting existing beliefs). An executive in India told me, “Too many people
come to us with their preconceived notions that they know our corporate
culture, but only a few will actually listen and watch to see what we are really
about.” Lesson learned: Corporate Social Responsibility is possible in India, if
an institution can understand how to be part of it.
Third: In working with the younger generation in the US, we quickly learned
that’s where the impact will be made for our community. The young eighteen
to forty segment were whom we wanted to target as committed donors, as
this segment was more open minded and ready to make a contribution to
society. The Matchpia campaign became quickly respected in the US for
mobilizing the South Asian community, in specifically targeting this segment.
With these lessons learned, we quickly wanted to replicate this approach in
India and provide a platform for this segment to increase their involvement in
social causes. Now anyone regardless of his or her position in society can
make a difference. Being that most of our contacts were in the corporate
sector, and successful entrepreneurs, we positioned our platform in India to
be the new younger Indian generation. A generation of new entrepreneurs
who wanted to use their business talent and experiences, and take a risk to
make a difference for society at large (Social Entrepreneurs).
Now individuals can use their experiences to innovate methods of giving back
(pay it forward), to others. As we tested our approach at all the top schools
(Indian Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Management and Indian
School of Business), we realized our simple concept was well liked and
appreciated by the students. One student told me “This is the first time we
are not told what to do and how to do it, by our parents. Now we can choose
what to work on or not too…frankly, I think everyone I know in my group of
friends would take this opportunity to be a Social Entrepreneur, especially for
a noble cause as this”. Lesson learned: It is possible to take a risk on the
younger generation; they too can make a difference in a country that is a
billion plus in population.
Q: Why should the average Indian in India or the U.S. care about this effort?
A: That’s exactly, it only takes the average Indian (South Asian), to make a
difference to this cause. It’s about genetics, nothing to do with your social
standing in society or who or what you know. It’s an opportunity to save a
life (which may be one of the greatest things one can do), and make a
difference between life and death for someone you know, or even a complete
By taking 10 minutes of one’s life to fill in a donor application for and take
“cheek Swab” test, an whole community can be saved. It’s the best insurance
policy our community has, and in the US the test is free, and in India
Matchpia provides the test also for free (based until the amount of allocated
funding runs out). Hence, our tagline: “It Only Takes One Match To Save a
Life, Maybe You Could Be the One” is resonating throughout India.
Q: Tell us about Pia and how she's doing?
A: Pia is doing Great!!! Her health is really well, as she is almost 27 months
post-transplant and living life to the fullest everyday. She is back to teaching
for a private school in New Jersey half the time (Head of the math
department), and working on various projects related to cancer and
advocating for cancer patients. She has been selected as the 2006
“DreamGirl”, representing the Look Good...Feel Better® (LGFB) program as a
spokesperson (a national public service program created from the concept
that if someone with cancer can be helped to look good, their improved self-
esteem will help them to approach their disease and treatment with greater
LGFB is a collaboration of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association
(CTFA) Foundation, a charitable organization supported by the cosmetic
industry, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cosmetology
Pure selfless acts of kindness. They’re so many individuals South Asian and
non-South Asians who helped us during our time of need. Still after thirty-
two months of from the time we started Matchpia, I am still meeting people
who got “tested” to see if they were a match for Pia and other South Asian
patients like her that needed a match.
[ Press release ]
Project India: Hope for South Asians in need of a live saving donor
New York (02/14/07)–-U.S.-based Matchpia.org, undertakes one of the largest corporate social responsibility projects in India. With its primary focus to promote the importance of educating and recruiting individuals to becoming “lifesaving” bone marrow and stem cell donors, Matchpia has recently taken its efforts to creating the first operational and robust “unrelated” donor registry in India.
Named “Project India”, this initiative launched into high gear in India this January, in creating the Pune-based (NGO) United South Asian Donor Registry/Matchpia (USADR). Working in partnership with senior leaders in the top corporations like Microsoft, Oracle, Genpact Infosys, Polaris, Larsen & Toubro InfoTech, Manhattan Associates, I-Flex, Lucent and other IT companies in India, over 4,100 donors were recruited in three weeks from six genetic regions of India (Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Delhi and Kolkata), making this the largest humanitarian genetic campaign in India and around the world.
“We are raising the bar of these top international companies to execute and demonstrate their commitment to Social Responsibility,” added Tim Dutta, Executive Director of Matchpia and USADR. The campaign has been well accepted in India, and the roster of companies keeps growing in size, as does the team of volunteers who have joined the campaign to help save the lives of all South Asian cancer patients in need of a genetic donor match.
“For the last three years of our campaign in the US, we observed the notion that if you educate humanity, humanity will rise to the occasion. Indeed that was very relevant and demonstrated through our effort in India,” explained Tim, “It no longer mattered whether you were a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian, or Jewish, nor did it matter if you a male or female, everyone came together to save humanity.” Volunteers of this campaign consist of many individuals from all walks of life in India, ranging from graduates from the top universities in India (Indian Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Management, Indian School of Business and others), to everyday professionals and homemakers wanting to champion this cause to save lives.
Since coming back to the states, the demand for Project India is growing bigger and bigger everyday. “In looking back in hindsight, I often think about how, I would have never known about the importance of raising the awareness of this cause if it wasn’t for Pia," says Hemant Wadhwani Executive Director of United Community Development Corporation and supporter of the Matchpia campaign. “It’s amazing to see the patient needs that exist in India for people with leukemia and blood related cancers. Everywhere we went, our team was contacted by strangers to help with friends or family members that are suffering from a blood-related disease and in of a the donor match. The need and demand for this type of medical service in India is very evident.”
“Still there is much work ahead to ensure the USADR continues to grow in a manner that conforms to US and international standards. The future of USADR does look very promising and we are all empowered and inspired by all the work that Matchpia has done in the US to help the South Asian community. This ‘Noble’ cause is spreading like wildfire throughout the country, everyone is talking about this ‘buzz’ to save humanity,” said Prayank Swaroop, a product specialist at Adobe Software and project lead for USADR in India.
Matchpia.org was formed to provide South Asian and all ethically diverse communities an equal access to a diversified pool of lifesaving stem cell donor matches, while at the same time increasing donor education, recruitment, retention and patient advocacy. This is achieved by providing various community outreach initiatives, and focusing on the importance of being committed and available we called upon for patients in need of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Although this campaign started to help find one woman a match (Pia Awal), it instantly catapulted to saving lives of other South Asian and ethnically diverse (minority), patients that needed lifesaving stem cell transplants.
About United South Asian Donor Registry (USADR):
USADR was formed as a result of the many South Asian patients in search of a life-saving donor match. A spin-off of Matchpia, the registry is the first operation unrelated donor registry in India, providing genetic representation of nine regions of India. With a seasoned leadership team of entrepreneurs and medical professional, USADR will allow all South Asian patients in India and around the world a greater chance at life.
Arti S. Shah, Communications Lead: email@example.com (US)
Tim Dutta, Executive Director: firstname.lastname@example.org (US)
Prayank Swaroop, Project Lead India: email@example.com (India)
Phone: (877) 206-8800, Fax: (973) 686-9233
View the Matchpia story: <http://video.google.com
/videoplay?docid=64896746094590 46013&q=matchpia&pr =goog-sl&hl=en>
Post your comments below.