Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Volunteering with St John Ambulance

KUSU Volunteering's community volunteers give up an amazing amount of time doing good things in the local community. Volunteering with St John Ambulance is one of these opportunities. Gemma Napaul explains why she got involved with it.  

I’m currently in my third year at Kingston, studying Biomedical Science. Whenever I tell anyone this, and explain what my degree entails they often ask me if I want to work in a hospital, and I’ll always reply, “Well, it would be nice but, I don’t think I could handle the blood.” This was the driving force behind my decision to volunteer with St John Ambulance.

I started training to be a first aider last year and qualified within 6 weeks. Unlike normal first aid courses for work, the training is continuous. I hope the word “continuous” doesn’t put anyone off, it’s just a weekly 2 hour session where they top up your skills. You don’t have to attend every week, just once a month will do! Duties are whenever you’re available. Being from Kingston we regularly help out at AFC Wimbledon and Twickenham Rugby (England vs. Wales this weekend... Can’t wait!). We also attend Wimbledon Tennis and the fireworks when November rolls round.

In fact the picture is of me on my first ever duty at Kingsmeadow, it also happened to be the first fireworks display I’ve watched outside and not from a window! Both fireworks and first aid?! Well and truly conquered my fears that day! The uniform isn’t very flattering but it keeps me safe and means that I’m easily approachable to those in need, plus it’s free and has lots of pockets, who doesn’t love lots of pockets?!

The best part about volunteering, aside from free access to amazing events, is the people I volunteer with. I was slightly intimidated at first but all the volunteers are really lovely and understand what it’s like to be a new first aider so they’re very supportive – they’ll always encourage you to take the lead but they’ll never leave you alone!

No matter the degree you’re studying, St John Ambulance is a brilliant organisation to volunteer for. It teaches you lifelong skills such as first aid, coping well under pressure and good communication (with both casualties and your fellow first aiders). 

I have volunteered for other projects, such as Knit Hats for Babies which Rachael ran last year and the Eel Conservation project which Chris has filled you in on. I tend to opt for the lengthier volunteering opportunities but I would love to do more one-off projects as I really enjoyed volunteering at The Big Bang Science Fair, which was more fun than work!

I think volunteering is extremely important especially as paid work is often too hard to obtain nowadays and, being a student, volunteering offers more flexibility than a part-time job. It’s a great way to, not only bulk up your CV but, become more involved in the community and helping out worthy causes while learning life skills that can’t be taught. It’s great to be able to celebrate all our hard work together as volunteers as you recognise everyone's dedication. 

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