National | Māori

Drive is on to get more blood donors

Television personality Pio Terei (Ngāpuhi, Ngā Te Rarawa) calls his mission to get more Māori and Pacific people to donate blood the “ultimate koha”.

Pio and his wife Deb are holding a blood drive in Auckland in the hope of increasing bone marrow and organ donor registers.

It’s a mission that is close to their hearts, following the death of their son Teina at the young age of 17, following a battle with leukaemia.

The drive, which is in its second year, is run under Trust Teina, which the couple set up in remembrance of their son.

“I don’t want my boy’s name not to be mentioned, I want people to talk about him,” Pio Terei says. “We lose people, even our parents, if we stop talking about our parents, it’s like they die twice.”

According to statistics, just over 10,000 Māori and those from the Pacific donate blood every year, with only 4,278 active Pacific Island donors in the past two years, and Māori and Pacific people have a certain phenotype that is only found predominantly in those ethnicities.

Pio says that makes it even harder for Māori and Pacific people who are in need of bone marrow transplants or need blood while going through cancer treatment.

“If you were to go to hospitals anytime, anywhere in this land, you will find people battling cancer, or they may have had a motorbike accident or something like that and they need blood and with respect to our wider whānau, we are quick to take it, maybe we should give it too.”

“If you’ve got 1% of Pacific Island or Māori blood, your chances of getting a bone marrow match are quite low. So the more people we need to be aware, then we can save more lives.”

The ‘ultimate koha’ kicks off at Te Wānanga Takiura in Auckland on Saturday.