Our community of Stem Cell Donors

Sophia Xia talks through what the network does, the value of volunteering and being on the Stem Cell register.

The Anthony Nolan Trust was set up to save the lives of people with blood cancer by making connections with patients and stem cell donors. Here at Birmingham our students, staff, and alumni community share their personal connections to the Trust. Hear from Sophia, president of Birmingham Marrow, the University’s student branch of Anthony Nolan Trust, and Matt, one of our alumni who is also a passionate stem cell donor for Anthony Nolan and member of staff at the University.

Sophia Xia, President of Birmingham Marrow, and 4th year Medical Student

The Birmingham Marrow student network mainly hold donor recruitment events on campus where they “tap into the unique population of healthy, young individuals who may be interested in potentially saving a life one day through stem cell donation”. The group also have plenty of fundraising opportunities through raffles, their “infamous annual naked calendar” (which raised almost £2,000 last year) and campaigns such as ‘Marrowmance’ and ‘Marroween’. Volunteering with Marrow is “distinctively active” with volunteers feeling “incredibly rewarded when they sign someone up, because there’s a 1 in 100 chance that they’ve directly helped someone find their best possible match”.

Speaking about her personal experience with volunteering, which she has been doing since her second year of university, Sophia tells her story – “I was initially lured into joining as a volunteer at the MedSoc fresher’s fair, but I have always loved volunteering as I believe it’s a fantastic way of building up skills you wouldn’t normally be able to during your day-to-day at university. These aren’t just skills to do with time management or organisation, but also on how to build a rapport and good interpersonal relationships with all sorts of people including fellow students, staff, other volunteers, and committee members”.

Matt Beveridge, Alumni, Staff member and Stem Cell Donor

Matt first decided to become a donor with Anthony Nolan due to two people in his life being affected by blood cancer. One of these individuals who was particularly instrumental in his journey as a donor is Simon Wilkes, Matt’s former football coach who introduced him to the Trust via a charity football match aimed at encouraging people to sign up to the Stem Cell register. Simon was also chosen by Birmingham FA in June 2022 as an ambassador with Anthony Nolan to further increase the number of people registered. This event is where Birmingham Marrow and Matt first connected.

Commenting on his experience of being a match for a blood cancer patient, Matt felt initially “overwhelmed” as the thought of helping save someone else’s life “was an incredibly positive feeling but also quite nerve-racking not knowing who that patient was". Although Matt says that thinking about the people in his life affected by blood cancer helped to keep his "focus".

Matt admits to having a “strong emotional connection both to Anthony Nolan and other patients that are suffering with blood cancer”. He notes that blood cancer is not something you can see; “walking past people in the street, they often appear well but beneath the surface, anyone can be a sufferer of blood cancer”.

Watch Matt’s full Donor Diary video here. Please note, this is courtesy of Anthony Nolan Trust. 

Interesting in becoming a donor and potentially saving someone’s life?

If you are a healthy individual aged between 16-30, you can join the register. If you’d like volunteer with Birmingham Marrow, check out their Guild page here.  

To hear more about any upcoming donor recruitment events and fundraising opportunities. You can find Birmingham Marrow @birmingham.marrow on Instagram.


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