SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR
Dina Raquel Rogel Alvarado is a young mother who spent a recent day working with fellow Church members at a temporary blood donation center set up in the Layco Zone of central San Salvador. Donating both time and blood provided Sister Rogel Alvarado with sublime satisfaction.
"I feel so happy because this is a great way to provide service without thought of compensation or reward," she said. "With my work I have few opportunities to provide service in other ways, so this has been a special opportunity."
Sister Alvarado was just one participant of a recent Church-sponsored service project dubbed "My Blood is Your Blood." The Latter-day Saint project was held in conjunction with a national day of blood donation in El Salvador. Hundreds of members reported to 17 temporary blood donation centers established in LDS meetinghouses across the country, from the city of San Miguel in the west to the city of Ahuachapan near the Guatemalan border.
At each locale, experienced technicians received the many volunteer donors who responded to the call to give.
At the end of the daylong effort, more than 900 units of blood were collected which were then transported to blood banks in Salvadoran hospitals, Red Cross facilities and at other medical institutions. The blood donation project was preceded by a colorful parade in San Salvador that featured marching bands, cheerleaders and floats. During the parade, missionaries and members marched the streets near the donations centers, encouraging their neighbors to take part in the blood drive and to establish a tradition of volunteer service throughout the country.
Ana Vilma de Aguilar, coordinator of El Salvador's national blood bank, spoke of the importance of the Church-sponsored blood donation project.
"Building up the blood bank supply is critical because there is a shortage [in El Salvador] of some 30,000 units of blood each year," she said. "If there was a catastrophe in the country, or some sort of accident that involved many people, we would not be able to meet the demand for blood."
Ms. Vilma de Aguilar praised Church members for their much-needed contributions.
"This significantly reduces the shortages we have in our inventory — we are so appreciative of this effort."
Donating blood is a fundamental act of service because it provides an essential material — blood — that cannot be produced in a laboratory. Blood transfusions play a vital role in treating people with serious illnesses, along with accident victims and patients undergoing organ transfusions.
El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America. Still, the Church is strong here and growing rapidly. More than 100,000 Salvadoran members serve in 17 stakes and three districts.
Service efforts such as the recent blood donation project have made the Church many friends here. Recently, the president of the Central America Area, Elder Don R. Clarke of the Seventy, met with El Salvador's first lady, Vanda Pignato de Funes, at the presidential palace in San Salvador. During the meeting, Elder Clarke spoke of the mission of the Church and its commitment to service and improving the lives of Salvadorans. He presented the first lady with a copy of the Book of Mormon and other LDS materials.
Mrs. Pignato de Funes spoke of the assistance the Church has provided her country: "You have always been there to help when there is a need."
— Luis Arbizu contributed to this story.