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I am not going to preach to everybody who reads this that I am wonderful because I have been a volunteer for 20 years and most of you have never even volunteered for 20 minutes. I for one am not above criticism so I am usually the last person to dish it out, everybody is entitled to choose their own lifestyles but if you have ever considered volunteering for a charity but as yet have never really decided which one can I point you in the direction of St. John Ambulance.
A friend at school started my career in St. John Ambulance and although that person has since left the organisation I continue with my quest to do something useful. This friend had been a Cadet at Bexhill St. John Ambulance division and through her mother who was at the time in the Adult division (later she became the Superintendent) decided that she too would love to find out more about the organisation and joined. I am not sure whether they were holding a recruiting competition at the time or not but she dragged about 5 of us along from school and I that is how it all began.
There have been many changes over the years, uniform, courses and regulations but the aim of the organisation has always remained the same - to care for the sick and needy.
Today St. John treat thousands of people every year and this is all part of a history going back over 900 years to the Holy City of Jerusalem when a growing number of Christians made long pilgrimages to the City - many arriving sick and weak. A Hospital was setup by Benedictine monks and after Jerusalem was captured in 1099 by Christian forces more pilgrims arrived. The monks running the hospital received substantial gifts including land all over Europe because their work became well known, the Pope himself recognised their work and the new Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem was confirmed in 1113. These Brothers and Sisters took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience but their special task was to care for the sick.
Like all wars, the Crusades went on for many years and in 1291, Jerusalem was again captured by the Muslims and the Brothers of the Order of St. John were forced to leave and they headed for Cyprus before seizing Rhodes in 1306. In 1522, the Brothers were forced to leave Rhodes by the Muslim forces led by a Turk Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. The Brothers moved from Rhodes and set up a new hospital this time on the Island of Malta. In 1565 the less young Sultan led a massive attack on the island but against all the odds the Grand Master of The Order Jean De La Valette led the Brothers to victory. Valletta, the islands capital, was built and fortified by the Brothers after the Great Siege and named after the Grand Master. The Knights of Malta, as they became known, continued to rule the island until they were driven out by Napoleon in 1798.
In England the land that was donated to the Brothers in Jerusalem was in London at Clerkenwell. The Order was a major power in medieval England and by the 14th century was one of the greatest landowners in the country.
In 1511 the young King Henry VIII was named protector of the Order however, when he established the Church of England he dissolved all the Roman Catholic orders and took their estates for the crown. Although briefly restored by Queen Mary Tudor, the dissolution of 1540 was really the end of the medieval Priory in England.
400 years after Henry VIII had ended the medieval Priory there were moves to revive the Order in England but the Pope refused as both Anglicans and Catholics were involved. Despite this a small group set up the British Order to carry on the original Brothers tradition of caring for the sick, and the suffering of workers in industry was one of its main concerns. Members of the British Order decided to train ordinary people in First Aid so casualties could be treated on the spot. In 1877 St. John Ambulance was set up to provide emergency medical care in an organised way. The idea took off and classes were set up across the country. In 1887 trained volunteers were organised into a uniformed Brigade to provide First Aid and Ambulance service at public events. This was the start of the black and white uniform still familiar at football matches.
The British Order of St. John has always had strong royal connections and it was in 1888, that Queen Victoria made it a Royal Order of Chivalry and became its Sovereign Head. Victoria ruled the largest empire the world has ever known and the Order saw it as part of its role to spread western medical practice in the colonies. So, where St. John Ambulance met local needs it stayed on after the British left, and today it is active in over 40 countries across the world.
Today the Organisation is still thriving, whether you are a Badger aged 5 - 10 and learning how to make a cup of tea or how to eat with chopsticks or a cadet aged 10 - 16 learning cookery and nutrition or an Adult aged 16+ learning how to use an Automated External Defibrillator, all train in the basics of First Aid. St. John Ambulance has 45,000+ volunteers (more than 50% are under 18) who are committed to caring and saving lives. We train half a million people in First Aid and treat approximately 200,000 casualties a year. St. John volunteers are a familiar and reassuring sight at public events ranging from the Marathon to premier league football matches to local fetes.
Whatever reason you have for becoming a volunteer within this Organisation whether as a First Aider, a fundraiser, an administrator or a Trainer, we all have one aim and that is to continue the great tradition of Care that St. John has carried out for centuries.
How to become a Volunteer.
1. Contact your local division, these are located in most large towns. Contact numbers are usually available at local newspapers but if not you can find the number for your County Headquarters and contact them.
2. Once you have made contact you will be asked to complete an application form and provide references. A Formal Police Check will be taken out on anybody volunteering over 18 and assuming everything is OK then you are a member.
3. Once you have been accepted into the Organisation and dependent on the role to which you have joined (fundraisers, administrators do not need to learn first aid unless they intend to go out and use it) there will be specific qualifications required. To become a uniformed member you need to complete an Essential Care Skills assessment and Manual Handling Certificate. This will entitle you to wear uniform and be supervised at local events. To attend events on your own, you will need to complete a Full HSE First Aid at Work Course.
What Do I get Paid?
Nothing. We volunteer our time, to train, attend events and re-qualify in courses and receive nothing as payment.
How Many Hours Do I Have To Do?
St. John request that you complete a minimum of 50 hours of voluntary service per year of which 30 hours can be training. If you attend 1 meeting of 1 hour each week for the whole year you will easily cover this but it is hoped that volunteers will offer their time to go to events also. The number of events you cover each year is entirely up to the individual. I still have time to go swimming, take my children to school, shopping, housework, read books, go on this site, take daughter dancing - so it does not take over your life just adds to it.
What Training Will I receive?
You will get all the training that you need to be able to attend events on you own and the opportunity to train to more advanced levels. Fundamental Care, Lifesaver Fractures, Casualty Handling, Patient Handling, Lifesaver Baby and Child, Automated External Defibrillator, Ambulance Aid, trainer qualifications and others are all offered. You choose to what level you want to go. However for some roles you will have to gain specific qualifications, your Officer in Charge should be able to help you with this.
Would I give it up?
Sometimes yes, but most of us say that about paid work as well as voluntary work, but for every bad day there are many good ones. With what other organisations could you learn to save a life, see your favourite group or football team for free , learn new skills, qualify as a trainer, work with young people and have a common link with others working in 40 countries throughout the world. The rewards are endless, knowing that you are the person who sent a casualty suffering from angina to hospital early enough to be treated as they had a heart attack and them eing able to thank you, you were the person who supported a casualty with a fractured spine and prevented them from becoming paralysed. Money could never reward you like that.