SharkAid campaign reaches Singapore

A global effort to save the sharks reached Singapore’s shores on Tuesday.

For the first time, local celebrities and conservationists stood in unison at a public concert, SharkAid 2012, at Cathay Cineleisure.

The event is organised by Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) and Shark Savers Singapore.

Singapore, which is the first stop of SharkAid, has one of the highest per capita consumers of shark fin soup.

It ranks second, behind Hong Kong, in the size of the trade in shark fins.

In a survey of 500 Singaporeans, half of the respondents who consume shark fin soup said they continue to consume the soup because the dish was placed in front of them and they didn’t want to see the food wasted.

A carnival was also held to engage Singaporeans on the role of sharks in the marine ecosystem.

Jonn Lu, director at Shark Savers Singapore, said: “Singaporeans are foodies and we love our food. If we want our chilli crab, lobsters or stir fried prawns, it is in our selfish interest to save sharks because without sharks, all commercial fisheries are going to be affected.”

SharkAid 2012 is part of the international Shark Savers movement with some 24,000 members in 99 countries.

This article was first published in CNA

Celebrities pledge no to shark fin

In line with a global movement to stop consuming shark’s fin, Singapore celebrities have hopped on the bandwagon to pledge their support.

A free public concert was held today at Cathay Cineleisure to raise awareness on the negative impact of shark’s fin soup.

Organised by Shark Savers Singapore, the concert is part of SharkAid2012 and is the first in a series of free concerts to be held around the world.

Local artiste Hossan Leong, who is also the Shark Savers Singapore ambassador, was joined by others such as Sylvia Ratonel, Eli T, Tessera and Darryl Yong to make a public pledge that they are “FINished” with consuming shark fin.

Singapore remains as one of the highest per-capita consumers of shark’s fin soup, second largest behind Hong Kong, which is the top shark fin trading country.

Local companies such as SingTel, NTUC Fairprice and Cold Storage have joined in pledging no to shark fin products, while some restaurants here have stopped serving the delicacy altogether.

This article was first published in Asiaone

A platform for sharing cancer experiences

He was devastated when his paternal grandfather died from lung cancer in 1997.

And Mr Wesley Lye, who was just nine then, did not know how to respond to his classmates when they asked him why he had to pin a black ribbon on his school uniform shirt.

Saddened and confused, Mr Lye tried to forget about his grandfather’s unsuccessful battle against the disease.

But 15 years on, Mr Lye, now 24, who graduated from Nanyang Technological University last year, wants to let others know that they are not alone in the fight against the No. 1 killer in Singapore.

So he sent his deceased grandfather a “Daffodil Candle” – a condolence message to a relative or friend who died from cancer which can be viewed by the public – on the Daffodil Days microsite,

The microsite, which is linked from the Singapore Cancer Society website, was launched last month as part of the annual Daffodil Days celebration – a month-long global programme to raise funds for and awareness of the fight against cancer.

The programme was launched on April 1 by the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan during the 2XU Compression Run along Nicoll Highway.

This is the first time that a microsite was launched in conjunction with the celebration.

Sharing of personal stories

Apart from sending “Daffodil Candles”, users can, among other things, send “Bouquets of Daffodils” – messages to recognise the efforts of caregivers – or simply share their personal story of their battle against the cancer.

All posts are free and can be viewed by the public.

Mr Lye said of his grandfather: “I was very close to him and he always made me laugh. He was also the one who (inculcated) spiritual values in me and taught me to appreciate what I have.

“I was really shocked and sad when he passed away, and I tried to avoid talking about his death.

“But now, I realise that there is no hiding from this disease and there are many people who suffer from it or know someone who suffers from it.

“The Daffodil Days (microsite) allows me to let others know that they are not alone and there are people who care for them.”

The microsite has garnered about 100,000 views since it was launched and there are several posts on it.

Mr Charles Lee, a senior counsellor at the Tanjong Pagar Family Service Centre, said the platform is a good place for an exchange of support by people affected by cancer.

He said: “For those who are (battling) cancer, they would be encouraged by the messages from people who have recovered or are fighting the disease.

“And the people who have recovered would also want to encourage others by showing their support through this platform.”

Other features of the microsite include information on cancer prevention and screening services for the disease.

Madam Judith Mala, who lost her father to cancer, said she is encouraged to hear about the platform.

Said the mother of three, who’s in her 40s: “The microsite is useful and I think people would be encouraged and inspired by the posts.

“Other organisations fighting against diseases should also consider creating such a platform.”

This article was first published in The New Paper.

A gift of hope

by Eveline Gan

For more than a year, Jane Prior’s son, Daniel, grappled with unexplained on-and-off high fevers. By the time doctors nailed down the cause of the fevers, the 11-year-old was getting random bruises over his body.

The diagnosis: Acute myelogenous leukemia, an aggressive form of blood cancer. To survive, Daniel would require a bone marrow transplant.

Speaking at the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) press conference last week, Jane told TODAY: “It would have been so easy for us if his siblings were a match but they weren’t. There wasn’t anything else to do but to wait for a match from someone else.”

Three months later, they found a matching donor from Australia. In 1996, Daniel became the first child to receive a successful bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor at the National University Hospital.

Jane understands how nerve-wrecking the wait for a suitable unrelated bone marrow donor can be for patients and their loved ones. Presently the president of BMDP, the Singapore Permanent Resident now actively campaigns for the urgent need to expand Singapore’s bone marrow donor pool.

At the press conference last week, BMDP announced plans to expand the local register by a further 5,000 volunteer donors this year. There are currently about 50,000 donors in the non-profit organisation’s database.

Each year, 2 in 3 adults in Singapore suffering from various leukaemia and other deadly blood-related diseases will require a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant in order to survive.

But the chance of finding a match from an unrelated donor is only 1 in 20,000, said Dr Yvonne Loh, haematologist and medical director of the Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Programme at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

Parents are usually not suitable donors for their children because each child inherits half his set of genes from each parent, explained Dr Loh. Siblings serve as the most suitable blood stem cell donor – the chance of a match is 1 in 4. But in more than 70 per cent of cases, this is not possible.

“In Singapore, our patients have access to the very best medical facilities, but with typically small families there is seldom a matching family member so we still lose lives unnecessarily when no matching donor can be found,” said Jane.

When a match cannot be found in the Singapore registry, the search will extend to other parts of the world. Finding a match typically takes about 15 weeks, but for minority ethnic groups, Dr Loh said the search “can go on for many months”.

Explaining why she volunteered at BMDP a year after her son’s transplant, Jane said: “I didn’t want anyone else suffering from the disease to be told that a match cannot be found simply because they belong to an ethnic minority group.”

As donor match is most likely to be found from within the same ethnic group, BMDP hopes to expand donor sign-ups in the minority groups.

Last year, Shalini Nair, 26, underwent a peripheral stem cell harvest to save a stranger’s life. The process took two days, for seven hours each.

“After the procedure, your life is back to normal but to someone else, your donation has changed their life,” she said. Eveline Gan

Sidebar: Becoming a donor – get your facts right.

Are you going to crack my spine or take a sample of my bone marrow? In her decade-long experience as a Bone Marrow Donor Programme volunteer, Jane Prior said that such misconceptions are still common. Haematologist Dr Yvonne Loh, medical director of the Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Programme at the SGH, clears up the mystery surrounding the donation process.

Myth 1: It is a hassle to sign up as a donor because you’ll need a sample of my bone marrow.

All you’ll need to sign up as a volunteer donor is to provide a sample of your saliva using a buccal swab. The cotton-tip swab is used to collect DNA from the cells of your cheek. You can even arrange for the buccal swab to be sent to you via mail. The DNA information is then recorded in the registry, and you will be contacted to donate if you are found to be a match to a patient.

Myth 2: Bone marrow donation is risky.

If you are found to be a potential match for a patient, BMDP will contact you and arrange for a medical check-up and blood tests to confirm you are a match.

The donation process will be from the vein in your arm (stem cell harvest) or from the pelvic bone (bone marrow harvest). The latter is performed under general anaesthesia. According to Dr Loh, both are safe procedures and risks to donors are mild and rare. Within two weeks of donation, most donors’ blood cell counts would have returned to normal.

Myth 3: I can’t say no after signing up with the registry.

You have the right not to go ahead with the donation process, when you are successfully matched with a patient. However, once you give your consent on the “Intent to Donate” form (this is usually done after undergoing medical check-up and counselling), it is a life-and-death situation for the patient. The patient will undergo pre-transplant treatment which wipes out his bone marrow. If you pull out at this stage, he may die without a transplant.

Call 6327 1344 or visit for more information.

Source: Today