Manenberg cadet division on the rise

Some of the Manenberg division first aid cadets with their leaders Bonita Fisher, back, far left, and Zaida Priestley, back, far right.

In just one year, the Manenberg first aid cadet division of St John Ambulance tripled in size, held demonstrations to show what they have learnt and ran an open day with fun activities and free health checks.

Zaida Priestley, who started the Manenberg cadet division last year, is overwhelmed by how much it has grown over the past year.

She joined St John after they visited Manenberg Primary School, where she used to work as a teacher’s assistant.

The St John cadet programme is aimed at children between the ages of eight and 17.

“When we started, 20 children joined, now we have 60 cadets from different schools in Manenberg, and we even have 12 cadets from high school. What we have also done is combine the first aid with sport, because we don’t want to bore them.

“With the help of community activist Mario Abrahams, we have started soccer, softball, netball, and volleyball. So, for three days of the week, they do first aid, and two days of sport.

“The children are here from 3pm to 4.30pm every day and most don’t miss a day,” Ms Priestley said.

They have now also partnered with other organisations in the area for various projects.

“Druiwevlei community centre approached us to run a programme there as well. The children at the community centre learn Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art originating in Angola), so it will be an exchange of skills. They teach the cadets Capoeira, and we teach them about first aid”

The Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) also offered the cadets a free computer course during the school holidays.

“After our open day, a flood of parents approached me. Some would like to sign up their children, and so many of them want to learn first aid themselves,” Ms Priestley said.

To help her with the growing number of children signing up to be cadets, Bonita Fisher, a home-based carer who will be trained by St John, joined the Manenberg division in January.

Ms Fisher said: “I have done first aid and home-based care before. I enjoy working with children and the elderly, and did not think twice to join this division. This is just a passion I have. It’s amazing what we get from the children – their interest inspires us and gives us hope.”

Kerishnie Fortune, 13, said that during her time with the division, she has learnt how to handle a neck injury, treat burns and tie an arm sling.

“I still feel excited every time I come here. Auntie Zaida teaches us a lot of stuff. I would like to be a St John officer one day, or even a doctor.

“Some children might think first aid is boring, but there’s nothing boring about it,” Kerishnie she said.

Michyle Marquard, 9, said he joined the cadets because he would like to be a doctor “and give people medical assistance”.

“We do lots of fun stuff with Auntie Zaida. With the things we learn here, I am already able to help my friends, and even my one-year-old brother, if they get hurt,” Michyle said.

Ms Priestley is also excited that two of their senior cadets, Nizaam Priestley and Ashley Horne, will be trained as junior cadet officers in Johannesburg in August.