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Why Give | Impact stories

From community volunteer to medical student, with help from donor awards

Joban Bal found his passion in life through involvement in community service and volunteer work – something he was able to continue at UBC thanks to financial support from a donor-funded student award.

May 29, 2019

Joban is a recent biology student who is now embarking on a career in medicine through UBC’s faculty of medicine. Biology wasn’t a subject he was particularly interested in during his high school years at Tamanawis Secondary School in Surrey, BC. He admits he wasn’t an engaged academic, devoting his time to extracurricular projects instead. But looking back, it was time well spent: one of these projects changed his life.

He became involved with his school’s blood donation clinic, recruiting new members to donate as he was then too young to be a donor. And through this, he saw the intense need. Talking to friends and family, he learned how many of them had benefited from blood donations and stem cell donations – but how few people gave blood or became stem cell donors. “Donating blood is one of the simplest things a healthy person can do. Unfortunately, we don’t. One in two Canadians is eligible to donate blood, but only one in 60 step out to do so. The reason we often hear is that people haven’t been asked about it,” he says. “We have received a tremendous response by just educating the youth. And once you see the impact you’ve made and the change you’ve caused, it’s hard to not do what you do.”

He’s continued his advocacy work through his years at UBC, creating the One Blood For Life Foundation, a blood and stem cell donation organization. Its focus is to get people to donate – especially young people. Taking on a new initiative during university hasn’t been easy, but with supportive professors and UBC’s many opportunities to help his studies, he’s thriving. “Coming here was a great decision,” he says. “I wasn’t as engaged in academics in high school, but the help and encouragement I’ve received has really helped me grow as a person.”

During this last year, he was the recipient of the HSBC Emerging Leader Scholarship, which he says was a tremendous help.

“It gave me the opportunity to focus on academics and my community work. I am able to explore my passions and make a contribution to a better world. But more than that – the idea that someone is investing in me and the direction I’m taking, it makes me that much more driven.”

Before he completed his undergraduate work, he applied for, and was accepted into, UBC’s Medical program. He will begin his MD studies in August. He’s still deciding where his career will go, but suggests perhaps something related to organ or stem cell transplants or heart health. “I’ve seen the difference this can make,” he says. “It changes lives.”