By Ellen Kurtzman

I grew up in Nebraska, the actual middle of the United States, as far from salt water as is possible. So, you may wonder how I have come to having friends on all the inhabited continents of the world.  The answer is simple: It all started with blood. 

As a teenager I volunteered in a local blood bank with the task of telephoning former donors to ask them to donate again and soon.  I was good at it.  People said that I had a nice, clear voice.   I've been talking ever since. The decades passed and I moved on with my life and to Texas.  I began to attend international Rotary conventions as the spouse of a Rotarian. 

At the San Antonio Texas convention in 2001 we had our first booth in the House of Friendship showing the results of the Governor's Challenge Blood drives in North Texas. This became an international project when the district in Johannesburg, South Africa challenged Texas district 5790 to a blood drive competition.  Johannesburg won the challenge but the world won the day as we began to understand that Rotarians were very devoted blood donors.

I helped Rotarians toss a pebble into the water and the ripples spread out over the world. Convention after convention came and closed: Chicago, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Montreal and New Orleans and the Global Network for Blood Donation grew out of those dreams and connections. 

Each convention meant 5 days of time in the GNBD booth greeting people, handing out information, introducing people one to another. When we got back home the work was just beginning with emails and telephone calls from all over the world. 

Fundamentally the questions started with "How can we be successful in our club?" 

The GNBD grew and success stories posted on its website gave inspiration to many.  My inspiration came from the friends I'd made along the way. People like Joe Ridley (Texas), Haagen Cumlet (Denmark), B.J. Smith (Texas), P.T. Prabhakar (India) and Cees Smit Sibinga (the Netherlands) who worked so hard in the GNBD booth and told the success stories and solved problems. How many times did we explain that we don't ship blood around from one country to another, we ship statistics?

Please work with your local blood bank where you or a family member might need a unit of blood in an emergency.  And, of course, how can we help you, your Rotary club and your district succeed with this worthwhile project?

I have been very happy with all this and thrilled at the success of the GNBD.  I've come a long way from Nebraska.