Everyone has it in them to save a life, no matter what age they learn vital first aid skills.
That belief has powered St Andrew’s First Aid since it was first founded as St Andrew’s Ambulance Association by doctors and businessmen in Glasgow way back in 1882.
With that in mind, in 1954 the organisation launched its Cadet Corps.
Aimed at young people aged between 11 and 15, the Cadets provide an opportunity to develop and learn life-saving skills from a young age, creating a grassroot understanding and level of confidence they can build on in later life.
Now celebrating 65 years, there is much to toast – the Cadets having seen 10,000 members pass through, many of whom have gone on to volunteer with St Andrew’s First Aid in their adult lives.
The Thistles, dedicated to children aged five to ten, also recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.
For the past three decades, volunteer group leaders have been combining fun activities with teaching lifesaving skills to this eager age group.
The Thistles take part in a practical educational programme, working towards achieving their Super Thistle Award, which sees them choose from 15 subjects and engage in weekly activities to achieve their 12 badges.
Both of these youth organisations are a rich breeding ground for the adult corps.
But perhaps more importantly, they also instil lifesaving first aid skills in the younger generation.
Stuart Callison, chief executive of St Andrew’s First Aid, said: “These milestones in the Cadets and Thistles journey underpins the very real ability of young children to learn first aid skills.
“It also cements the continued appetite among this age range to know how to save a life. If all children in Scotland had the opportunity to be taught first aid and it was embedded in their early education, avoidable deaths could be dramatically reduced.
“Not only are first aid skills vital for the health of our nation, giving children such a valuable skill can set them apart for their future careers.
“St Andrew’s First Aid Cadets and Thistles have been a major contributor to first aid in Scotland for many years so we are delighted to be celebrating their milestone anniversaries.”
The team which oversees recruits is eager to develop even more young lifesavers in the coming years.
Alison Kelly, senior corps development administrator, explained more about their unique programme.
She said: “Thistles and Cadets usually meet on a weekly basis, prior to the adult sections.
“The Thistles, much like the Brownies, have 12 different badges they need to achieve, including first aid.
“Both Cadets and Thistles work on a range of different scenarios they may encounter in every day life in which they can use their lifesaving skills.
“And those are put to good use at their annual youth conference every year.”
There are six sections – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Easter Ross, Fife and South West – with nine Thistle and 17 Cadet groups within these distinct areas.
Stewart Simpson, St Andrew’s First Aid head of volunteer development, said: “While those numbers may seem small, we currently have 77 Thistles and 281 Cadets enrolled.
“We take what we do with the children very seriously, investing time to ensure we have the right leaders to take on the roles.
“A large proportion of our young recruits also go on to become adult volunteers and help the next generation.”
Between the youth and adult sections, St Andrew’s First Aid has around 1400 volunteers across Scotland – just shy of 1000 of whom attend public events.
Adult volunteers are trained in a unique set of skills which include standard first aid, automated external defibrillation and manual holding.
But whether the recruits are young or old, they all learn one fundamental philosophy.
Stewart said: “From the youngest to the oldest, our ethos is that everyone has the potential to save someone’s life and that’s an invaluable skill to have.”
As for the future, both Alison and Stewart would like to recruit more volunteers of all ages – all of whom are taught first aid free of charge.
Alison said: “Many of our recruits go on to take on roles in health care, inspired by what they learned from us.
“We’d love to inspire even more volunteers in future.”
Stewart sounded one note of caution, however.
He added: “I’ve been with the organisation for 25 years and have seen a lot in that time. It’s not for everyone as you often see people at their most vulnerable.
“But for the youngsters, it’s a great thing to have on their CVs and it has helped many develop careers.
“Our Cadet and Thistle numbers have been going up in the last couple of years but we’re always looking at opportunities for new groups across the country.”
To find out more, visit the website at www.firstaid.org.uk/volunteering/youth-members.
Social enterprise helps power organisation
St Andrew’s First Aid is Scotland’s only dedicated first aid charity and has been one of the country’s preferred first aid providers for more than 130 years.
In addition to providing youth and adult training, the charity also visits community groups and organisations to deliver first aid talks and demonstrations.
And its schools programme teaches essential first aid skills to even more children and young people.
Youngsters benefit from not just first aid training but issues such as knife crime, how to deal with cuts and bleeding associated with them and how to avoid becoming part of that culture.
St Andrew’s First Aid teaches life-saving techniques to more than 20,000 people each year.
These programmes are free but the charity’s social enterprise arm also receives payment for providing first aid at public events and for commercial training which helps to power the work of the organisation.
That includes free training for volunteers, many of whom go on to provide emergency first aid at the likes of football matches and concerts, all over Scotland.