1. Besides being amazing at what you do we’ve seen that you are involved with things that affect the society and understand that action needs to be taken. Which brings us to ask why this initiative is close to your heart?
There is no particular reason, this is just an opportunity to help someone or to save a life, with very little effort from my side. I feel like it’s the right thing to do. I potentially have the cure for someone’s life threatening disease in my blood. This initially drove me to sign up and donate.
2. To someone who hasn’t heard about the Sunflower Fund, how will you go about explaining it?
I’m amazed whenever I speak to people in the entertainment industry, how little true awareness there is about this cause. Everyone knows of The Sunflower Fund but most people don’t realise that registering as a donor is so simple and you can save a life. The Sunflower Fund fights blood diseases like Leukaemia through the recruitment of stem cell donors and maintaining a registry of potential donors committed to helping anyone in need of a life-saving stem cell transplant. They fund-raise to cover the cost of education and awareness about the need for this and the process to become a blood stem cell donor as well as to cover the cost of the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) tissue-typing test involved in the recruitment of donors.
The Sunflower Fund also maintains a patient support fund to assist patients who are unable to afford costs associated with getting to transplant as well as being actively involved in creating a platform for support structures to assist patients, families and communities.
3. Social media is a huge platform for us to communicate with the outside world, do you think it has played a role for you to be able to reach out to people about this initiative?
Not me personally, but social media makes it easier for The Sunflower fund to get their message out. For me, it then also makes it easier, going forward, to support them in getting the message out there.
4. In what way would you say your voice plays a role in this initiative especially being a public figure?
Being a public figure means carrying some sort of influence over others, people also sit up and listen a little closer when you speak. They want to know what you’re doing and this helps spread the message. So I use my platform to try and save lives as well as bring happiness and laughter to people.
5. Explain for 5 marks, what Stem cell donation is, and what they are used for?
Stem cells are immature cells that can develop into any cell present in the bloodstream: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other blood components. Blood stem cells are not embryonic stem cells. They come from bone marrow, circulating (peripheral) blood or umbilical cord blood. People whose diseases inhibit their ability to produce these kinds of cells need a transplant of healthy stem cells from a donor. It is similar to donating platelets. Every year, thousands of individuals worldwide with blood diseases such as leukaemia, marrow failure or aplasia, and inherited metabolic and immune deficiency syndromes reach a stage where only a stem cell transplant can drive the disease into remission.
How it happens: Blood is drawn out of one arm, it goes through a cell separator machine that extracts the stem cells from the blood and your blood is pumped backed into your body via the other arm. These stem cells are then used for people who have blood diseases.
Side Note: We could tell someone was well informed and informed us in return about the procedure, so we went ahead and gave him a 5/5.
7. Since we are all seeking to be active agents of social change, how do we get involved with the Sunflower Fund?
To register as a donor is simple and takes less than 10 minutes. If you are between 18 and 45 years, with a weight of more than 50kgs and a BMI of less than 40, you could be eligible to register as a donor. You can also support the Sunflower Fund by buying the signature product – Tube of Hope (TOPE) is sold nationally. The sale of this multi-purpose accessory enables The Sunflower Fund to cover the tissue-typing test cost involved in recruiting donors. Wearing it is also a statement of hope and salute to all patients, survivors and the families of those that have lost the battle against blood diseases like leukaemia and aplastic anaemia. If you don’t match the eligibility criteria to be a donor, you can still support. A simple SMS of the word ‘Sunflower’ to 40555 is a R30 donation to The Sunflower Fund.
8. What will you be doing on the 21st of September which is Sunflower Day?
My Sunflower day will be completely dedicated to creating awareness. I’ll be doing an interview on eNCA about this day and the cause then I’ll be using the day and spreading the message on social media. There are quite a few activities that the Sunflower Fund has planned across the month into early next month. On the 21st, the day will be commemorated with a public donor drive at The Century City Hotel in Cape Town and will be followed by a donor drive in Maponya Mall Soweto on 13 October.
9. In what ways would you like to see the foundation grow in the coming years?
South Africa needs a very diverse registry of committed donors. Blood diseases are not racist, they attack anyone from any race group and any religion, age or gender. I’d like to see more people of colour registered. It is important because there is such a need for people of colour to donate, it helps the registry grow and increases the chances of so many patients finding a match, and essentially, we’re looking to save lives.
10. Lastly, what cool projects outside of this one are you besig (busy) with at the moment?
Currently we’re busy with the Goliath and Goliath Comedy Tour, I’m also working with my team, actively building my brand so my influence can stretch further as I advocate for causes such as these.