Sweden started texting blood donors with a special message to keep them coming back. It's working.

The phrase "blood donation" has a way of making us cringe.

Whether that's because we're scared of needles or it makes us think of those relentless Red Cross phone calls, many of us don't donate nearly as often as we should.

When we do finally cave in and donate, it's often an unmemorable, if mildly rewarding, experience. We might get a free soda and a sticker that says "Be nice to me, I gave blood today." But that's about it.


Hope you're not squeamish. Photo by Wasin Waeosri/Flickr.

And then we're quickly ushered out of the room and sent on our way. Our blood, capped in vials and shipped off to some warehouse, or distributor, or something. We don't know.

The only time we're ever updated is when there have been too many donations following a huge disaster and we're urged to contribute in some other way.

Way to make us feel loved!

But what if we could actually see, in real-time, when our blood donation makes an impact?

What if we could see the face of someone whose life we helped save? Or even just know that our donation was eventually pulled off the shelf and thrust into action because someone needed it?

We might feel more comfortable donating if we knew where our blood was going.

Well, in Sweden, blood donors now get a text message when a patient receives their blood.

Sweden's blood donation service has been slowly rolling out an initiative over the past three years that aims to re-engage donors by sending them a quick note when their donation helps a person in need.

That way, donors get more than a little token appreciation.

They get to know that their good deed is actually making a difference.

Loose translation of second message: "Thank you! The blood you donated on January 13, 2015, has now been beneficial for another patient. Sincerely, The Blood Central."

This is just the latest effort to combat falling blood donation rates around the globe.

Historically, many donation centers have relied on cash rewards to get people to give.

But the World Health Organization has made it pretty clear that one of its primary missions is to achieve 100% voluntary donations in order to maintain a safe blood supply (though recently the wisdom of this goal has been called into question).

That means nonprofit organizations that collect blood are looking for alternative incentives.

Some have tried financially iffy offers, like gift certificates and movie tickets. In some places, people can get a paid vacation day from work in order to go give blood. Switzerland even tried giving away lottery tickets.

Others have tried to entice donors with a free health screening, with cholesterol tests often being the main attraction.

We're lucky — back in the day, no one gave us jack squat to donate blood. And we liked it. Image via Thinkstock.

So far, Sweden's text message program for blood donors seems to be working.

According to Karolina Blom Wilberg, communications manager at the Stockholm blood service:

“We get a lot of visibility in social media and traditional media thanks to the SMS. But above all we believe it makes our donors come back to us, and donate again."

They're still waiting on the hard numbers to tell us whether this SMS system has made a difference and whether the influx of creative donation incentives will be able buck the trend.

But in the meantime, this program has people all over the world talking and bringing attention to an issue that desperately needs it.

Let's hope it catches on elsewhere.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Bodycam footage of Gabby Petito

It's common news at this point that the cause of death for young aspiring influencer Gabby Petito was strangulation. But to the survivors of domestic abuse, the tell-tale signs were clear long before the headlines came out.

In a recent interview with BuzzFeed, 35-year-old Kayla Walters reflected on her own experience following Petito's case on social media. In particular, the released bodycam footage where Petito described an aggressive lover's quarrel with fiance Bryan Laundrie. As BuzzFeed put it, "As she watched the video, Walters was sure that Petito had been at risk of strangulation, and with it, death."

Why? Because Walters saw how Petito demonstrated Laundrie's violent face grab during the fight. That's all. But for survivors of strangulation like Walters, that small aggressive gesture is the only red flag needed.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."