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Saving Lives with York First Aid Society

Elizabeth Walsh speaks to York First Aid Society President, Lauren Cheetham-Birmingham, about how students can learn life-saving skills.

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Image Credit: Rebecca Lancaster

One of the great things about York is the impressive number of societies we host. With the total number surpassing two-hundred, encapsulating everything from Dog Society to Taylor Swift Society, there is quite literally something for everyone. However, if you can't find something to suit your interests, do not fear. As is repeatedly drummed into you during Freshers’ Week, there is always the option of starting a new one.

Despite the impressive amount on offer, Second Year  English and History Student Lauren Cheetham-Birmingham noticed following a conversation with a friend at a different university that York was missing a First Aid Society. With such a large and important gap to fill, paired with a passion for helping others, Lauren decided to create one.

Detailing more about why she wanted to set up the society, Lauren voiced her frustration surrounding the fact that support for learning first aid is often exclusive to science-based courses. It is through the newly established York First Aid Society that she hopes to change this. She strongly believes that the importance of having even a basic knowledge of first aid cannot be overlooked.

Lauren shared with me that “80% of cardiac arrests happen at home, potentially with family and friends, and that for every minute that passes without CPR the victim's chance of survival decreases between 7-10%.” Reflecting on this, she noted how important it is for anyone to be able to help in a time of need, as “on a human level we all want to be there for someone in trouble.” She also added, “In my experience, those motivated to help others make wonderful friends to have in your life. So far everyone who has joined the society has not changed that opinion.” The skills required to provide vital assistance as well as the chance to make new friends can both be gained through the York First Aid Society regardless of the degree you are studying.

As well as looking to bring students from different backgrounds together through a shared passion, the main aim of the society is to share lifesaving first aid skills with as many people as possible. Paired with the immediate skills, they also aim to signpost students to further opportunities within Saint John’s Ambulance including first aid courses and the chance to volunteer as first aiders at concerts and festivals. Further to this, the society hopes that members will be able to build new connections and enjoy themselves while gaining facilitating new skills.

Despite the hard work and enthusiasm put into the initial stages of setting the society up, coronavirus has undoubtedly created some unforeseen obstacles for Lauren and the committee. Having said this, Lauren recognises that the effects of the pandemic have been both positive and negative for the new society.

As charities have been so directly impacted, contacting Saint John’s Ambulance and securing the vital funding and support has been increasingly difficult. Lauren noted that “It has been frustrating for everyone involved to be so excited to progress and to be forced to stagnate, but I think it's a universal feeling!” Although the society was initially unable to be registered through SJA or YUSU they have now been able to apply.

Reflecting on the positive outcomes, Lauren noted that the global movement to online platforms has in fact been beneficial. She explained that being met with such a huge online presence of young people has really helped the society to grow. Despite being faced with more obstacles than most when starting out, they have made it work. Lauren summarised her experience of running the society in its early stages by saying, “ We have faced big obstacles but we have started our time already by being incredibly adaptive and innovative. I think that in the long term we will see huge benefits from this.”

Since beginning back in June, York First Aid Society has already amassed lots of motivated members to join the society and make up the committee. This has enabled them to run training events including workshops covering vitally important topics such as CPR, the recovery position, and choking. Looking at the social side, Lauren explained that the two social secretaries Lydia and Ellen have organised online quizzes as well as team-building activities to help the group work more effectively as well as get to know each other while being unable to meet in person.

Looking forward to the next academic term, Lauren told me about some new activities and events the society hopes to run. In the transition back to campus they hope to be able to run some socially distanced, in-person first aid so that the sessions will be more impactful. She also revealed, “We hope to welcome some exciting new guests in the new academic year for some amazing online webinars, but you’ll have to join the society to hear more about that!”

In the long run, Lauren hopes the society will be vibrant and thriving with an established member base and an even bigger committee. She would also like to work towards securing additional funding to pay for exciting first aid equipment that will help train members more effectively. She summarised by saying: “I envision that the seeds our committee have sown this year will grow into a society that is diverse and social.”  As well as this, she aims for the society to be connected with all areas of the university enabling them  to, “spread our vital message and the amazing opportunities available with Saint John’s Ambulance.”

With the ever-changing situation meaning that not every society will be at Freshers’ Fair, Lauren wanted to remind freshers in particular that, “this doesn't mean there isn't a fantastic and exciting society to join to fit your interests.” In addition, she noted, “If you want to help learn how to save lives, you couldn't find a better place or group of people to meet than in our society.”

Becoming a member of the York First Aid Society is completely free and more than worthwhile. You can sign up by following this link: https://yusu.org/activities/view/first-aid-society?fbclid=IwAR22bl2ap9dZN-9sCqswEINYmVMzPloh_LXd9EPRFIf7O3whc2re2CPYGyg.

You can follow along with the new society’s  journey through their Instagram page @yorksjasoc and take a look at the Saint John’s Ambulance website to find out more about their mission and opportunities:https://www.sja.org.uk/

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