The Sunflower Fund (TSF) is a South African non-profit organisation dedicated to creating awareness, educating the public, fundraising and facilitating the registration process for people to join the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR).
Increasing the number of donors listed on the national database offers hope to hundreds of South Africans with life-threatening blood diseases such as leukaemia who have reached the point where their only chance of survival is a blood stem cell transplant. A larger Registry significantly improves patients’ prospects of finding matching blood stem cell donors in order to undergo life-saving stem cell transplants.
Education, awareness as well as the recruitment and testing of donors are inextricably linked; the one activity cannot happen in isolation of the other. They are an integral part of every project TSF embarks on and these activities include:
speaking about the role of TSF and the need to build the registry;
the donor/patient relationship and the process of a stem cell transplant;
dispelling myths surrounding blood stem cell donation process.
In order to continue its valuable work, The Sunflower Fund relies solely on financial assistance from its dedicated funders – consisting of individuals, companies, Trusts and Foundations.
It takes just two test tubes of blood to become registered as a stem cell donor, but its the tissue typing of each sample, at the required molecular (DNA) level, that currently costs The Sunflower Fund R2 500 per test. Donors are asked to make a voluntary contribution to this expense, but most of these costs are covered by The Sunflower Fund’s fundraising efforts.
Once the blood samples have been analysed, the individuals’ genetic information is then stored on the SABMR’s searchable database until the prospective donor turns 60 years old, which is the mandatory retirement age.