LUMS Graduate’s Facebook Group Provides Hope and Connection to Families Affected by the Coronavirus
If there is one single characteristic that defined Pakistanis in general, it would be generosity, their desire to help. Even today, as the coronavirus spreads across the country, many people are trying their best to invest their time and resources to not just protect their families but to also find ways to help their fellow countrymen.
One such effort is a Facebook group called Corona Recovered Warriors. An initiative taken by LUMS graduate Zoraiz Riaz (BSc (Honours) Political Science, 2017), the group connects individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, and are willing to donate their plasma, with patients who need it to fight the disease.
The blood plasma of recovered patients contains COVID-19 antibodies. These antibodies can help your immune system fight the virus when you are sick, which is why a plasma donation may be able to help others that have contracted the virus.
The Corona Recovered Warriors group had 100,000 members within its first week and has now connected 500+ patients with matching plasma donors. “I have a strong belief that the sentiment to help is widespread in Pakistan. Once that is channelised you can immediately see the impact,” says Zoraiz.
Because of the rapid growth of the platform, he dedicates all his time to managing the group and has taken a break from working on his start-up company. He has also had to engage his siblings and a team of volunteers to help with the rapidly growing platform. Together him and his siblings, Mehrunisa Riaz, also a LUMS alum, and Salman Riaz, collect information through respective donor and recipient forms hosted on the platform and on http://www.plasmaportal.org/. This forms an extensive and reliable database of plasma donors, which is then used to cater to requests by members on the group for plasma for their family members or loved ones suffering from COVID-19. The strong team of volunteers spread throughout the country help moderate the huge amount of posts on the group, and act as ambassadors of the group in different cities collecting information from potential plasma donors.
As soon as this platform was set up, Zoraiz and his team could see its impact. They receive countless messages and calls daily from grateful family members who connected with a matching donor through the group and have seen their loved ones recover. Zoraiz shares a story of a pregnant woman in Gujranwala who had contracted the virus. Not only did he get calls from people as far as Saudi Arabia willing to come to the country and donate plasma but still receives messages and calls from potential donors weeks after the woman has recovered.
He says it is stories like these that keep him going especially on days where he feels emotionally drained due to the nature of the work and the intensity of the crisis, “Whenever I get to a breaking point, I get one call that informs me of a recovery and is full of prayers and gratitude. That is then enough to get all my energy back. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, full of really hard dips when I can’t connect a request to a donor, along with highs, in which a recovery has happened for a cherished loved one. Some of these stories of recovery make me happy and I feel like the group is truly fulfilling its purpose.”
Even though the core function of the group was to connect donors with recipients, the 327,000 member strong Facebook group has also become a space that offers support and hope in times of suffering and worry for people and families that have been affected by the disease. Advocated for by famous celebrities including Bushra Ansari, Amina Sheikh and Fawad Khan, the reputation of the group has resulted in donors filling the Corona Recovered Warriors form internationally as well. The admins have information for donors from UAE, Doha, US, India, UK, which they have reserved for any requests that may appear from these areas.“My plan was to make a small forum, I honestly did not expect it to become so viral. My main motivation was to give people some support,” says Zoraiz.
His friends and peers from LUMS immediately came to Zoraiz’s support spreading the word during the initial days of the group, “It was the LUMS community that helped make this group viral. That’s a thing that I’ve always appreciated about LUMS, whenever they find someone from the University doing something for the community they always rally together to offer help.” Zoraiz also credits his experience of being a student at LUMS to providing him with the training required to managing a group like Corona Recovered Warriors, “The study experience at LUMS is very diverse. I took so many diverse subjects, and now taking those subjects and my experience with societies, all of it is informing my work today. I set up ambassadors in each city. That’s something I learnt at LUMS when I worked with the societies. The University also taught me how to easily adapt to rapid and unexpected changes.”
It is clear that there is a huge demand for the kind of work the Corona Recovered Warriors group is doing, because of which Zoraiz has made an appeal to the government for a collaborative effort that can expand the scope and reach of the group. He is also working with a tech start-up so that a more streamlined and systematic platform can be made available for plasma donation for communities all over the world.
It is usually during times of crisis that one often finds everyday heroes taking it upon themselves to provide relief to those suffering and in need of help. The pandemic is affecting many people around the country, and it is in this time of fear and worry that Zoraiz, his team of volunteers, and the donors themselves are a group of heroes, providing a ray of hope.
You can help Zoraiz in his efforts by joining the Corona Recovered Warriors Facebook group and spreading the word.