'Hundreds' give blood as #polishblood campaign gets widespread media coverage

Organisers of the campaign to encourage UK-based Polish nationals to donate blood as a positive gesture to their adopted country say hundreds of people have taken part so far, with the initiative gaining widespread coverage across the media.

So far more than 2,500 people have joined a Facebook group in support of the campaign, which uses the hashtag #polishblood.

It has been organised by the British Poles Initiative as an alternative to strike action by Polish people living in the UK. The strike action has been promoted by the Polish Express newspaper in protest against discrimination of immigrants. The Guardian reports that only around 15 people attended a rally yesterday outside Parliament as part of that action.

Andrzej Rygielski of the British Poles Initiative, who came up with the blood donation idea, told PRWeek: "We created our own event to encourage Polish nationals to give blood as a good gesture because there’s such a need, and we love this country."

Asked how many people gave blood, he said: "I have seen hundreds of confirmations and pictures. Some people will be giving blood in the next few days or later; it depends if they were able to book an appointment for that day.

"At the moment we are not able to process all the contacts, because there are hundreds of them. We have limited powers because there are only a few people involved in the campaign. We don’t have any money or support for doing it; we’re spending our time doing the best we can."

The campaign has been promoted via the Facebook group and through Twitter, and many people have been posting pictures on social media of them giving blood:

Rygielski said work on the campaign began on 7 August after the group heard about plans for the Westminster rally.

He and his colleague George Byczynski have given a number of media interviews and the story has been covered in several newspapers including The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent and the Metro, as well as the BBC.

Rygielski describes the British Poles Initiative as an "activist organisation" with limited resources. The campaign has been met with criticism by another body, the Federation of Poles, which describes itself as an umbrella organisation for more than 60 Polish member organisations.

It said: "Blood is universal and has no race, religion, gender or indeed political opinions. We believe it should not be used for political purposes."

But the campaign received a positive response in other quarters.

Jon Latham, assistant director at NHS Blood and Transplant, told the BBC: "It's great that members of the Polish community are using 20 August as a springboard to commit to becoming a blood donor – they can help save and improve lives by donating blood."

In a statement, Green Party deputy leader Shahrar Ali said: "This is a highly commendable action and a much-needed reminder of the huge contribution migrants make to British society.

"In recent years the rhetoric around migration has become divisive, stigmatising and utterly deplorable and it’s wonderful to see such a positive fightback from migrant communities."

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