First aiders since first graders


Nayland students Sophie Armstrong and Denver Keene went to Auckland in April to attend the St John National Youth Festival.

As veterans of advanced level competitions themselves, the pair were there to support the youth cadets competing under pressure to show their CPR and first aid skills, and their abilities to respond and communicate in emergency situations.

Year 12 Sophie started her training as a ‘penguin’ at six and has moved through the organisation over 11 years to gain the rank of corporal, shown through the two stripes she wears on her St John uniform. She’s also undergone leadership development training towards gaining her third stripe and a promotion to the rank of sergeant. These stripes will be awarded at an event later this year by the Governor General.

As a qualified first responder, Sophie is on hand at events such as sports games, where she could be called on to strap and bandage injuries. She supports paramedics and ambulance staff and knows how to use a defibrillator and respond to cardiac arrest. The well-qualified volunteer was awarded the title of Nelson/Marlborough District Cadet of the Year for 2019 which means she travels across the district and region to support the “youth side of things”.

Year 10 Denver was also six when he began his involvement with St John. He underwent training at Easter that was a step towards gaining his corporal stripes. “I feel proud of completing LDT [leadership development training] but it’s only the beginning because I still have to prove that I deserve the rank at division, so I can only be hopeful that I get corporal,” he said.

While Sophie would like to pursue a career in nursing, Denver doesn’t want to follow the medical path. He’s set his sights on becoming a chemical engineer instead.

The pair are passionate about what the St John youth programme can offer those who join. They say that as well as gaining leadership and life skills, there’s a lot of fun to be had too.

“People think St John, it’s first aid but it’s really not [just that]. (…) There are fun camps at Bridge Valley and Teapot Valley and we have a Grand Prior curriculum. So we have 29 badges that the cadets can earn. We have a camping badge, a ventureship badge, a fire safety badge, a water safety, animal care even,” Sophie said.

Anyone interested in joining the St John organisation or finding out more, should check out the St John website on the link below. They could also approach Sophie or Denver directly here at Nayland.

By Sera King – Media and Publicity