In a world where community involvement and service hold immense value, St. John Ambulance (SJA) volunteers in Manchester are stepping up, making a significant impact in the lives of those around them.
With over 400 eager young individuals waiting to join their cadet program, the organisation seeks dedicated individuals willing to guide, mentor, and impart essential skills to the next generation.
So we sat down with two remarkable individuals, Mike Ashfield and Shahid Qatar, who shared their inspiring journeys as they contribute to their community and enrich their own lives through dedicated volunteer work.
SJA are looking for volunteers too, so there’s never been a better time to get stuck in.
Mike Ashfield: A Desire to Make a Tangible Difference
For Mike Ashfield, the drive to create a tangible impact in his community has been a lifelong passion.
His journey with St. John Ambulance started with an instant connection to the idea of volunteering and the prospect of making a positive difference.
It was a friend who introduced him to this fulfilling path of service, and soon, Mike found himself immersed in training sessions and community events.
“Through this experience, not only did I gain a renewed sense of purpose, but I also discovered a supportive community and a platform to continuously learn and grow,” he adds.
A Memorable Moment at the Football Match: Impacting Lives
One of the most memorable experiences for Mike Ashfield as a St. John Ambulance volunteer occurred during a football match.
He vividly describes the scene, “During a bustling football match recently, I stepped into the shoes of an Event First Aider with St John Ambulance, surrounded by the roaring excitement of fans.”
“Though the stadium was new terrain for me, and many faces were unfamiliar, the warm camaraderie among the volunteers quickly turned strangers into teammates,” he says.
Mike recalls the pivotal role of their Event Lead, who guided them through the venue, ensuring the safety of all attendees.
Amidst the cheers and whistles, they collectively ensured the safety of everyone, making the experience truly enriching.
Balancing Commitments: A Blend of Daily and Weekly Planning
Balancing volunteer work with other life commitments can be a challenge, but for Mike, it’s a challenge he readily accepts.
He explains his approach, saying, “Balancing my volunteer work with other aspects of my life, like my job and caring for my energetic pal Ronnie, requires a blend of daily and weekly planning.”
Each day, Mike dedicates a few minutes to sorting out tasks and addressing important emails, ensuring the week ahead is well-organised during more extensive planning sessions.
What fuels Mike’s dedication to St. John Ambulance is the camaraderie he has found among his colleagues and the fulfilment that comes from knowing their collective efforts contribute to a society where help is always at hand in times of need.
Through their work, they inch closer to realising their vision: a community empowered by the presence of trained first aiders, ready to lend a helping hand whenever needed.
The Most Rewarding Aspects of Being a St. John Ambulance Volunteer
For Mike Ashfield, the most rewarding aspect of being a St. John Ambulance volunteer is the profound impact that small acts of care can have on someone’s life.
“The camaraderie and shared sense of purpose with my fellow volunteers have not only enriched my life with meaningful experiences but have also fostered a community that cherishes selflessness and the joy of lending a helping hand.”
Mike Ashfield’s message to prospective St. John Ambulance volunteers is filled with inspiration.
He said that the beauty of this path is that your growth and achievements are fueled by your own drive.
“While the initial step is self-taken, what follows is a nurturing environment where your aspirations find solid ground.”
Shahid Qatar: From Cadet to Inspiring Leader
Shahid Qatar’s journey with St. John Ambulance began at the age of 13 when he joined as a cadet with the Sheffield unit.
His entry into the organisation came through his participation in the bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award with school.
Having previously experienced the world of first aid, Shahid felt compelled to explore it further.
“I was looking for a skill and, after some experience of doing first aid previously, I thought I should give it a go,” he reflects.
Since those formative years, Shahid hasn’t looked back.
Empowering the Community: From 12 Cadets to 91 Volunteers
One of the most memorable experiences for Shahid within St. John Ambulance has been his time as a cadet unit manager.
His dedication and leadership quickly made a significant impact.
“After moving to university I was looking for a new challenge and joined a small unit consisting of 12 cadets,” Shahid explains.
He didn’t stop there; he continued to rise within the ranks, becoming the unit cadet lead and, eventually, the unit manager.
Under his guidance, the unit flourished, growing from a modest 12 volunteers to an impressive 91 volunteers.
They worked with local schools, universities, and the community to make a lasting impact.
This transformation occurred in a small town of 10,000 people, making St. John Ambulance a household name in the local community.
Balancing Volunteer Work and Academic Commitments
Balancing volunteer work with other life commitments can be challenging, but St. John Ambulance offers flexibility to accommodate varying schedules.
Shahid highlights the versatility of the organisation: “The great thing about Sja is that you can give as little or as much time as you can.”
With numerous roles across the organisation, it’s easy to find a good match for your schedule and interests. “With so many roles across the organisation, it is easy to find a good match,” Shahid explains.
For him, St. John Ambulance serves as a stress relief and a rewarding break from the demands of university life.
“After a long day at university, I know I can volunteer with young people or, of course, volunteer in one of our many operational activities to provide a good break from my studies,” Shahid shares.
The Rewards of Volunteering: Skills, Confidence, and Making a Difference
For Shahid, the most rewarding aspect of being a St. John Ambulance volunteer is the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.
Shahid’s journey with St. John Ambulance has had a profound impact on his personal and academic life.
He currently pursues a career as a student doctor at university, and he attributes much of his success to his experiences with St. John Ambulance. “For me personally, Sja has had a massive impact,” he reflects.
“I am currently a student doctor at university, and without Sja, I would not have had the skills, confidence, or motivation to do what I’m doing at the moment,” Shahid acknowledges.
Now, Shahid is determined to share the opportunities and support that St. John Ambulance offers with others.
He actively contributes to the development of young cadets by taking them to events and running tailored sessions on career advice and university applications.
“Through taking our cadets on events or running tailored sessions on careers advice and university applications, there is nothing better than when a cadet gets into their dream career and says thank you to us for being part of their journey,” Shahid passionately expresses.
Advice for Prospective St. John Ambulance Volunteers: Discover Your Role
Shahid Qatar has some heartfelt advice for individuals considering becoming a St. John Ambulance volunteer, drawing from his own enriching journey. He encourages everyone, stating, “For everyone looking to join or interested in Sja, what I would say is give it a go.”
“No matter what your background is, no matter how much time you can give to us; there is always a role for you,” Shahid assures.
He encourages prospective volunteers to reach out and explore the opportunities available, with the organisation ready to help them find their perfect role.
Oliver and St John Ambulance
Oliver Freer’s journey with St. John Ambulance was inspired by his deep passion for first aid and a desire to make a positive impact.
He recalls how his interest in first aid was piqued during his school years, where they used St. John Ambulance’s training videos as part of their curriculum.
He says, “I have always had a passion about first aid and helping others, but my longing to join St. John really stemmed from school where we studied first aid and used St. John Ambulance’s training videos to enrich our curriculum.”
This initial exposure to the world of first aid and St. John Ambulance’s resources motivated him to explore it further. Oliver took the initiative to sign up for St. John’s youth program, and a year later, he found himself at his first meeting, ready to embark on his journey with the organisation.
Making a Profound Impact: The Regional Youth Forum
One of the most significant experiences in Oliver’s journey with St. John Ambulance occurred in 2023 when he joined the Regional Youth Forum. This opportunity had a profound impact on his life and allowed him to grow as a person.
He reflects on this experience, saying, “The Youth Forum has honestly impacted my life in so many ways that if I were to write it all, it would go on for hours and hours.”
The Youth Forum enabled Oliver to meet other dedicated individuals and provided him with a multitude of opportunities. The people within St. John Ambulance left a lasting impression on him, describing them as kind, welcoming, and amazing to work with. The Youth Forum allowed him to represent the views of youth while also fostering his personal growth and helping him become the best version of himself.
Balancing Life Commitments with Volunteering
Balancing volunteer work with other commitments in life can be a challenge, but St. John Ambulance offers the flexibility to accommodate varying schedules. Oliver explains that it’s relatively easy for him to balance his school and home life with his involvement in St. John.
He emphasises the importance of knowing that you can choose the level of commitment that suits you, and there’s no pressure to do more than you can manage. St. John Ambulance respects individual limitations and encourages volunteers to contribute within their available time.
What Motivates Oliver to Continue Volunteering
Oliver is motivated by the knowledge that his volunteer work with St. John Ambulance can make a significant difference in his community. He understands that his efforts can be the difference between a life lost and a life saved.
He says, “I know that because of my volunteering with St. John, I could be the difference between a life lost and a life saved. I know that I am doing something positive for my community, and I know that what I am doing is for the best. This drives me towards doing and giving my all to St. John and motivates me in everything that I do.”
The Rewards of Being a St. John Ambulance Volunteer
In Oliver’s opinion, the most rewarding aspect of being a St. John Ambulance volunteer is the sense of community and the people he has met through the organisation.
The St. John community has provided him with a strong support system, and he considers some of his best friends to be fellow volunteers.
Additionally, St. John Ambulance has offered him numerous opportunities for personal and skill development, which go beyond first aid. These opportunities have allowed him to grow and flourish as a person.
Oliver also acknowledges the immense impact that St. John has had on his life, making him a better version of himself.
He says, “St John is one of the most rewarding aspects of my life, and it is largely down to the people I have met and the opportunities I have been given.”
Advice for Prospective St. John Ambulance Volunteers
Oliver’s advice to individuals considering becoming a St. John Ambulance volunteer is simple: “Just do it.” He encourages everyone to take the leap and give St. John a try, emphasising the welcoming and inviting nature of the St. John community.
He reassures prospective volunteers that there will always be someone to turn to for support, and there’s a helping hand available when needed. The opportunities and experiences offered by St. John Ambulance are too valuable to miss out on, and he encourages everyone to get involved and make a positive impact in their community.
Inspiring Journeys of Dedication
Mike Ashfield and Shahid Qatar exemplify the spirit of volunteerism and the impact it can have on both individuals and the community.
Their journeys with St. John Ambulance showcase the power of collective effort, the fulfilment of lending a helping hand, and the personal growth that comes from serving others.
As they continue to make a profound impact, they invite others to join them on this inspiring journey of compassion and community building.
Whether you are a student, a professional, or someone seeking a way to make a difference, St. John Ambulance welcomes all, offering a variety of roles to match your passion and availability.
Join the ranks of inspiring volunteers who are making a lasting impact on Manchester and its young residents.
Make your journey of dedication with St. John Ambulance today.
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