For nearly a century, kids have been whimsically singing about wheels and buses and going ’round and ’round.
No one is claiming that “Wheels on the Bus,” with its simple lyrics and repetitive rhythm, was created to be anything more than a playful tune to be enjoyed by transportation-loving toddlers. One could argue, though, that if the song was created with a deeper meaning, that it would be about resilience in the face of beeping horns, crying babies and whatever else happens to come its way.
That’s been the story for the 2002 Mercedes Atego pictured below. The bus first rolled through the hills of Scotland as part of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service’s fleet of bloodmobiles. Then, with the help of Global Blood Fund, the Scottish blood bank donated the bus down to a Lebanese NGO in 2014.
When the NGO Donner Sang Compter first got the keys to the then-12-year-old bus, it wasn’t able to be thrown into use right away. In serious need of repairs, the NGO brought the aging bloodmobile back to life with a major renovation. Within a few months, it was back on the road, saving lives just as it had in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round.
Donner Sang Compter’s president and founder, Yorgui Teyrouz, knows something about resilience and restoration, too.
When Teyrouz was 20 years old, he was involved in a tragic car accident. Teyrouz was driving in Beirut just after midnight when another vehicle veered into his lane, causing him to swerve and lose control of his vehicle. His car landed atop a second vehicle, its driver crushed underneath.
“My eyes watered, I couldn’t breathe,” Teyrouz would later say. “It felt like the world had weighed down on my shoulders and suffocated me.”
The next few months of his life, he recalls, were a terrifying blur. Teyrouz was placed in jail – for his own safety, a jailer told him. That proved to be a wise bit of protection as the family of the deceased driver arrived at the police station armed and looking for Teyrouz. Teyrouz was then moved to Roumieh Prison, the largest and most notorious prison in Lebanon. Overwhelmed and afraid for his future, Teyrouz vowed in his cell that if he were ever released, he would help at least one person every day.
Less than a month later, that day came. And in a twist of fate, Teyrouz learned that the grandfather of the man killed in the crash was himself dying and in need of a transfusion within days of his release. So he gave blood, and he got his friends to give blood – acts which ultimately saved the man’s life.
“I thought to myself, ‘That’s it! This is how I can help a person every day,” Teyrouz recalls.
From there, with little more than a Facebook group and an Excel spreadsheet, Teyrouz started Donner Sang Compter. By May 2010, it was an NGO linking blood donors to patients in need.
Fifteen years later, DSC has held nearly 1,300 blood drives and is responsible for the collection of almost 44,000 units of blood. While not a huge operation, its connection to its communities is clear: the NGO’s paid staff can be counted on two hands, but its volunteer staff has swelled to roughly 600 – all of whom are helping at least one person every day.
The Mercedes Atego has been crucial to DSC since arriving in Lebanon eight years ago, but it hasn’t always been the easiest ride. It took the Lebanese government five years to grant official registration – prior to that, Teyrouz’s team had to obtain special permits every time they wanted to use the bus.
Then, just a few months after successfully registering the bus with the Lebanese government, someone stole its external generator, equipment vital for further blood drives. In a 2019 Facebook post, DSC shared a photo of the break-in. Their devastation, the post reads, “could not be put into words.”
Despite the difficulties, Teyrouz says he and his team never lost sight of the bloodmobile’s potential and worked hard to replace the generator and maintain the aging bus as needed.
“We understood the need to invest a little to keep the blood flowing in a safe and healthy environment,” Teyrouz says.
It’s been a dream investment, as it turns out. The bus has hosted more than 200 drives in the years since with little sign of slowing down. Teyrouz calls it a game-changer for his organization and the people of Lebanon.
Since his time at Roumieh Prison, Teyrouz has worked tirelessly to fulfill his promise made inside its walls. He’s seen incredible acts of service and has experienced first-hand what humanity can be at its best. He’s also witnessed a Lebanon in severe turmoil, wrought with economic woes, sectarian violence and an escalated threat of conflict with bordering Israel.
Those problems haven’t robbed him of his joy, though. Or his mission.
“Give blood, give time, give sweat,” Teyrouz says. “Because the giver is always the winner, it heals you on the inside. Blood connects us all.”
And that is why the wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round.