The Big Issue magazine has partnered with The Sunflower Fund to encourage more black donors to join the South African Bone Marrow Registry with the group making up only four percent of the 65 000 current donors.

This makes it difficult for black cancer patients to find compatible donors.

Bodily tissue-type is inherited from both parents so the closer a bone marrow donor is in genetic makeup the more likely a match will be. It is extremely unlikely that a white person’€™s tissue type will match a black person’€™s and vice versa.

‘€œThis is one of those times when race is an issue, but in the best possible way,’€ said Melany Bendix, editor of the Big Issue magazine in South Africa. ‘€œWe were shocked to find out just how dire the shortage of black donors for the SA Bone Marrow Registry is. Black donors only make up 4% of the 65 000 donors in the registry, which means black people with leukaemia have significantly less chances of finding a donor match.’€

5fm’€™s DJ Fresh added his voice to the cause by donning The Sunflower Fund’€™s trademark bandana for the cover of the magazine with the message: ‘€œBlack like Fresh? The Sunflower Fund needs you’€.

The Sunflower Fund rallies donors throughout the year to join the South African Bone Marrow Registry through a quick, simple and, most importantly, almost painless test. ‘€œPeople think that it’€™s bone marrow, so it involves a lot of pain, but it’€™s about donating blood’€, says the Fund’€™s founder,Tina Botha.

Botha was about to undergo emergency surgery in hospital when the doctors told her that her son, Chris Corlett, had very aggressive leukaemia.  Chris was put onto chemo immediately, and just as quickly Tina began her work championing the cause of building a South African Bone Marrow Registry.

In 1997, there were only 600 donors in the registry, and now there are 65  000. It costs R1 million to pay for 1 000 new donors to undergo the new, more comprehensive ABDR DNA testing and the Fund is trying to raise every cent through events and the proceeds from selling bandanas at Pick ‘€˜n Pay.

The Big Issue is for sale from vendors at traffic lights across Cape Town and through Homeless Talk in Johannesburg. The vendors have also jumped at the chance to get involved in the campaign. The Sunflower Fund has given a talk to explain the black donor shortage and all vendors will be wearing a bandana while this magazine is on sale to show their support for Bandana Day and The Sunflower Fund.

You can also support The Sunflower Fund’€™s mission to grow the SA Bone Marrow Registry by supporting Bandana Day on October 12. The colourful bandanas are available at all Pick n Pay and BP Express stores for R20.

For every Big Issue magazine sold, half of the price goes directly to the vendor.

For more information as to how you can help, contact:

The Sunflower Fund:   toll-free number 0800 12 1082 or

South African Bone Marrow Registry or

The Big Issue SA: 021-461-6690,


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