Northern Region claim long-awaited Youth victory

Louise Mukherji-Powell |

If you passed by King’s College this past weekend and thought you saw a major incident unfolding – don’t worry! The annual St John National Youth Competitions took place over Saturday and Sunday, which saw teams of cadets from around the motu come to showcase their first aid and communications skills in a bid to be crowned winners. It was a landmark year for competitors, thanks to the Northern Region team beating Central and South Island Regions after thirteen years of losses.

A series of regional, team and individual competitions took place over 48 hours, with set ups designed to mimic real life medical emergencies. St John Youth members often stay with the organisation through to adulthood, and many sign on later in life to volunteer or work in the emergency ambulance service. This landmark competition – which is supported by individuals, businesses and community fundraisers - is an important date in the calendar to put training into practice and see who cuts the mustard when the stakes are high and the clock is ticking down.

St John National Youth Manager, Kerry Mitchell, says, “This is what our youth have been building up to through their training, and the cadets who competed at the weekend represented the pinnacle of our programme. They, along with their leaders and families fundraised, trained and studied hard to make the weekend happen. Thank you to all the people who turned out in support, the businesses who donated goods and the services who donated time - and everyone who worked to provide training, funds, fundraising events and who volunteered over the very long and busy weekend.

The spread of results is a testament to the hard work of the cadets, and I believe Aotearoa has a bright future in the hands of these amazing young people.”

The competition drills included a simulated drowning, cardiac arrest, motor vehicle crash and other common incidents that Hato Hone St John respond to. The teams were given a set amount of time to assess the situation and make a decision on how to best treat the patients. They had to work together to decide how to proceed and were assessed by a group of judges on how well they collaborated and how accurately they chose to respond.

St John’s current National Cadet of the Year, Bria Walker, says she used to be too excited to sleep ahead of the competition, but was working behind the scenes this year in her role. “To prepare for the competition, each squad went through six purpose-led training weekends, which equipped them with leadership, confidence, and problem-solving skills.”

As well as the regional title, there were awards for top teams and individuals. Cadet Sergeant Dayna Bennet (17), from Tauranga, was crowned individual champion, made all the more special given that it was her last year competing.

“I’m overwhelmed and delighted to be this year’s individual champion. The talent within the programme is next level and I’m just so stoked. This was my second time competing and I really dug deep and tried to remain calm throughout. The CPR exercise really put my knowledge to the test, but I kept imagining it was real life and that spurred me on to focus and remember my training. I can’t wait to get home and hug my family and talk it all through with them!

Dayna’s advice for others planning on competing would be to trust your gut. “There’s no tricks here – just remember what you’ve been taught and appreciate the fact that you have these life-saving capabilities. Also – relax and enjoy the event… and get some sleep!”

Cadet Leader Lily Wilson (17), from Wanaka, led team ‘Sensationally Strong Smurfettes’ to victory in the team championship title. “The key to winning was to empower each individual to play to their strengths, and keeping in constant communication with each other. The other thing that I think is really important is to know when to laugh and to just enjoy the ride. It was such an incredible experience, seeing how much we’ve all learned and how well equipped we are to help others in times of need. This is my last year in the Youth Programme, and after 12 years of being a cadet I’m 100% going to be involved with Hato Hone St John in some way going forward.”

Ariel Yu from Auckland and Sophie Harris from Whangarei are part of the wider Northern Region, and they are both relieved and in disbelief that they’ve finally broken the 13-year losing streak. Ariel has been part of the youth programme for 12 of her 18 years and shed a few tears at winning the big title in her final competition. “What a way to end my last competition – I’m so proud of the Northern teams for the way we’ve supported each other to victory. I’m away to take a deep breath and I’ll definitely be continuing my work with Hato Hone St John.”

Sophie concurs, “This feels like a dream, to win after so long! We’ve made friends for life at the competition and what a way to showcase the talent we have up here. The vehicle crash assessment was one of the most challenging yet rewarding things we’ve done, and I feel reassured knowing these are some of the skills young people in New Zealand possess today.”

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