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Azad Yildirim was born in Belgium in 1995 and grew up in Nevele. He now lives with his family in Deinze. During the week he lives in student accommodation in Ghent, where he is a first-year law student at the University. In August 2018, he registered as a stem cell donor, which is good because there are too few donors of Turkish origin like him. Azad's parents come from the south-east of Turkey. The family is worried about the lack of knowledge about stem cell donation. "People don't know what it is or what it involves," says Azad. "I didn't know myself until the Red Cross contacted me. It's worrying that so few donors of non-European origin are registered, meaning that there is less help available if I or someone in my family gets sick. Medicine has advanced so far. By registering as a donor, we can make such a big difference. It's such a small gesture but so important."
"I'm glad I've been able to do my bit by registering as a stem cell donor. I think it's great that I can help others in our society with minimal effort. I also realise that it can happen to me too. I could get sick tomorrow and need stem cells." Azad hopes that he can also convince his friends and family of foreign descent to become donors. "When I told two of my best friends - both of Moroccan origin - that I had signed up as a stem cell donor, they said: "Hats off". And when I told them why, they immediately wanted to register too."
"I think it's also important to explain what happens with the stem cells," says Azad. "I think that people with an Islamic background, for example, feel it's important to know exactly who they're helping when they share a part of their body. It doesn't matter to me, though. It's always good to help someone else, regardless of where they live or what their background is."