SINGAPORE - There are 32,000 people alive and well today because they were able to receive blood last year.
On Saturday, some of the 71,000 donors who gave this life-saving blood were honoured for their contributions.
Madam Shanthi Ramalingam, 65, gave blood for the first time when she was 26 because she felt that as a woman and thus not eligible for national service, it was the best way for her to contribute to the nation.
She had to stop for a while when her cholesterol level was high but she gave up unhealthy food and did yoga to get it back to normal, and was able once again to donate blood, which she now does three to four times a year.
A former driver with Trans-Island Bus Services who now works as a cleaner, Madam Ramalingam has donated blood more than 70 times. She received a "gold" award yesterday from Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.
Speaking at the World Blood Donor Day celebration, held by the Singapore Red Cross and the Health Sciences Authority at Sentosa, Mr Gan thanked the donors who "give blood without expecting any incentive or reward".
More such people will be needed in future, the former Red Cross cadet said.
"Blood demand will continue to increase, with usage projected to rise by between 3 and 5 per cent annually over the next two decades," Mr Gan added.
To meet the demand, two more satellite donation centres will be built by 2018, making a total of five locations where people can donate.
"From past surveys and interactions with donors, we understand that donors greatly value convenience and accessibility," he said.
A centre which opened in Dhoby Ghaut in 2012 now sees 1,600 donors a month and accounted for 18 per cent of donations last year. Youth make up a third of its donors.
However, Mr Tee Tua Ba, chairman of the Singapore Red Cross, said only 1.8 per cent of the population give blood, adding: "We have to raise this number to at least 3 per cent for a consistent and sustainable blood supply for Singapore."
He urged donors at yesterday's event to invite a friend or relative along to join them the next time they make a donation.
Calling each and every one of them a "hero", he said: "Because of your selfless giving, someone's grandparent, parent, spouse, sibling or child is alive and still able to share their fellowship."
This article was first published on June 8, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.