This October, our lifesaving Marrow students from across the country met for the 2015 Marrow AGM. It was an opportunity to share stories, celebrate successes, and plan for the year ahead.
In the first of two blog retrospectives, Ellie from Cardiff Marrow takes a look back at a very special weekend.
What do you get when you combine lifesaving, 300 energetic students, buckets full of tea and a very accommodating Leeds Student’s Union?
Aside from also the only mathematical equation I can complete without breaking into a cold sweat, the answer is – one successful Marrow AGM!
As a keen Marrower, blogger/journo person and Media Coordinator at Cardiff Marrow, it made sense for me to write up my take on this year’s AGM. If you can put up with my rambling, hopefully you’ll see what a fantastic time was had by everyone between 16th and 18th October, and just how much it’s made us all even more passionate in implementing the #EvenBetterBestMarrowYearEver.
Because this is my first year in the committee, having begun volunteering with Marrow when I started at Cardiff University last year, it was my first AGM – and, in fact, my first time meeting non-Cardiff Marrowers at all, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Nevertheless, I was as excited as the rest of Team Cardiff when we embarked on the nearly five-hour trek to Leeds. It didn’t take long for us to learn it’s not grim up North – actually quite the opposite!
It was all-systems-go as soon as we stepped off the train, squeezing in a quick drink at Fruity, Leeds SU’s trusty Friday night (otherwise known as blearily-eyed rolling back to the hotel at half four). There’s no time to waste in the hangover recovery period when there’s Marrow work to be done, though – so the next morning we were up and raring to go (OK, perhaps a slight exaggeration) at Leeds Uni.
Saturday was an action-packed day.
Although we were literally sat down for most of it, our little brains were crammed with info – all good, of course. This included national updates, because it’s fair to say the main committee are a busy bunch; speeches from incredibly inspiring guests Dorothy, a transplant recipient and new National President Alex’s mum; Elizabeth, who deals with Marrow’s American equivalent, Be The Match; and Dr James Kustow, the father of Marrow who set up the very first branch, in Nottingham, in 1997.
Then there was the Marrow fair, giving us the chance to explore different divisions and overdose on luxury chocolate, thanks to Switzerland Marrow, and workshops tailored to specific roles. Not to mention one of the main events – the evening dinner, party and awards.
There were so many deserving winners, with many accolades going to our wonderful hosts, Leeds Marrow. Every group is special in their own unique way, and we’re all working to the same goal of increasing numbers on the Anthony Nolan register, but it’s clear to see that Leeds truly go the extra mile in encouraging those potential donors.
We at Cardiff were honoured to be awarded twice, too. One stage visit was for coming second for Fundraising, and we were also really grateful to receive the Media award. I was passionate in my role as Media Coordinator anyway, but nods like this definitely don’t go unappreciated.
The categories were varied, encouraging us all, from new groups to Lifetime Achievement winners. It seems absolutely everyone who has any link to Marrow is bursting with passion for the cause.
This energy was demonstrated in another way that night, when we all hit Tiger Tiger in town for some well-earned Marrow boogying, and a drink other than tea, although it has to be said our ‘Marrow Me’ flasks did double up as saviours.
Sunday was back to business.
And business meant the announcement of the new National Committee. After we watched their electoral videos, we then voted for our choices. They’re already looking like they’ll do as fantastic a job as last year’s crew. Nice work, guys!
The afternoon entailed more individual skills workshops, where I learnt about social media and campaign planning; Marrow sustainability presentations; and other truly awe-inspiring speeches. This time, Stuart Brooks took to the stage to share his story of donating stem cells as an actively gay man.
We also heard from Sunny Bains, whose campaign after his 2-year-old son Gaurav’s leukaemia diagnosis prompted a 1,200% increase in people of Asian descent joining the register. It’s stories like these that hit home to everyone in the room just why volunteering with Marrow is so essential.
By Sunday evening, it was time to cast our reluctant farewells to all things Yorkshire and AGM. But having met an uncountable amount of influential people; got to grips with campaigns such as Marroween and Spitmas; and gained even more incentive for hosting clinics around university, reinforcing the message online, and fundraising to help blood cancer patients, we were bursting with motivation all trip home, and sure enough, this has lasted here in Cardiff. Next week we’re hosting another Training Session for more volunteering newbies, while clinics and campaigns are going strong.
Like the other groups we mingled with, we’ll definitely keep Marrowing. After my own blood cancer diagnosis during my GCSEs, I wondered how in the future I’d be able to give back, and now I’m at uni, I know I’ve definitely found the answer in the shape of Marrow.
Interested in joining one of our magic Marrow groups? Find out more here.