Giving back to the community

Ms Khairiah Onan (left) and her family at this year's Blood Drive at West Mall. PHOTO: EXXONMOBIL
A volunteer at the HarbourFront Centre Blood Drive this year. PHOTO: EXXONMOBIL

A low haemoglobin count has never stopped Ms Khairiah Onan from wanting to donate blood.

After more than 10 years of being turned down at blood donation drives because of the condition, she received the green light for the first time to do the good deed last year at ExxonMobil's community effort. Her haemoglobin count, which fluctuates, had climbed enough for her to be approved for blood donation.

She was thrilled and was none the worse for wear after the donation.

She felt no pain either during the donation. "I couldn't feel anything after the local anesthetic was administered," she says, adding with a laugh: "As long as they give me the LA, I'm fine."

Ms Khairiah, 43, is among the many ExxonMobil employees, together with their family and friends, who happily take the company's lead in its regular blood donation drives, which has been a flagship volunteering activity for the energy firm since 1999. A total of 300 volunteers participated in this year's seven mobile drives held at the company's manufacturing site as well as in shopping malls.

ExxonMobil volunteers at the West Mall Blood Drive this year. PHOTO: EXXONMOBIL

In fact, ExxonMobil has been Singapore's top corporate donor for Singapore Red Cross since 2003. For the past 15 years, it has averaged 1,100 units in donations each year to the National Blood Bank.

"We've had an enduring life-saving partnership with ExxonMobil for close to two decades, through their longstanding support for the national blood programme," says Mr Benjamin William, Secretary General/CEO, Singapore Red Cross.

"Community blood mobile organisers, such as ExxonMobil, play an important role in ensuring a regular supply of safe blood to meet all our nation's transfusion needs . This is especially significant, given our aging population. The team from ExxonMobil works hard and we appreciate the team's ongoing effort and enthusiasm in blood donation advocacy and blood donor mobilisation. We look forward to many more years of fruitful collaboration with them."

Ms Khairiah, or Khai as she prefers to be called, exemplifies that ExxonMobil spirit. The staff assistant in the company's Fuels & Lubricants department did not just donate blood last year, but she also marshalled her family to join her at one of the company's drives.

While her husband and four teenage children did not donate blood for various reasons, they went all out to encourage passers-by to sign up for the drive. Her No. 2 and No. 3 kids - son Ahmad Danish, 16, and daughter Miza Khaliesah, 18 - even dressed up as mascots to bring a smile to the faces of people in the area.

"They were among the most hyper mascots, they were dancing around so much," says Ms Khairiah.

Taking part in ExxonMobil's blood donation drives is one of the ways her close-knit brood involve one another in their lives. All of them keep the weekends free for family-bonding time.

This year, in October, Ms Khairiah even enlisted the help of her sister's family to persuade the public to donate blood.

Before each of ExxonMobil's drives, volunteers attend an hour-long briefing that teaches them how to approach members of the public to make a donation that is more precious than just a few coins into a tin can.

Ms Khairiah says: "They teach us not to be upset when people run away from us."

It wasn't easy for her and her family initially. She recalls making a mess of what she intended to say when she approached the first few people.

But it got better.

"Just to get their attention is the first accomplishment," she says. "And when you get them into the donation area - that is the second accomplishment."

Most importantly, she learnt to appeal to many people's innate desire to do good.

"Don't just say, 'Come, donate blood.' It's better to tell them, 'Come join us to save lives.'"

Apart from the Red Cross, ExxonMobil has also been a long-standing corporate partner with the South West Community Development Council since 2002.

The two organisations have worked together on initiatives such as the annual Transport Bursary, which helps students from low-income families in the district to defray their transport expenses, and the yearly Adopt-A-Rental-Block, which sees some 300 ExxonMobil volunteers distributing groceries and household essentials to low-income residents in the local community.

Ms Low Yen Ling, Mayor of South West District, says: "ExxonMobil's longstanding commitment and contributions to our South West district form a cornerstone of the 'Many Helping Hands' approach - where the public, people and private sectors work together to uplift lives.

"In today's fast-paced world, we need many more such 'helping hands' as social issues have become more complex. By deepening its community involvement and volunteerism, ExxonMobil is an example of how our social compact is growing to levels where personal and collective responsibilities reinforce each other for society's good," she adds.

South West District Mayor Ms Low Yen Ling at this year's Adopt-a-Rental Block program that involves the distribution of groceries and household essentials to low-income residents. PHOTO: EXXONMOBIL

ExxonMobil Singapore Public and Government Affairs Manager Andrew Ang says: "ExxonMobil strives to be a responsible corporate citizen by making a long-term, positive impact on the quality of life in the communities where we operate. Our community investments in Singapore span the areas of education, the environment, the arts and other civic and community giving."

One key area of ExxonMobil Singapore's involvement in education is being a worldwide partner of Junior Achievement (JA), a non-profit organisation which seeks to equip youths to succeed in a global economy through work readiness and financial literacy. Each year, some 100 ExxonMobil volunteers here go to neighbourhood schools, polytechnics and ITEs to teach courses on career success and entrepreneurship.

Ms Ng Hau Yee, JA Singapore executive director, says: "ExxonMobil provides not only funding support but also has a dedicated team of volunteers who lead the CSR effort in recruiting volunteers and coordinating training sessions.

"Their passion in making an impact on the youths through life skill courses in entrepreneurship, work-readiness and financial literacy is reflected throughout the organization - from employee volunteers to the JA working committee to senior management. Lives have been impacted by their employee volunteers planting a seed in every youth that they have touched."

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