This week is Student Volunteer Week, a national campaign by Volunteering New Zealand(external link). Over the week we will be highlighting some of the students volunteering with us across the country.

The West Coast is gearing up to run its third Youth in Emergency Services (YES) programme this year. The national programme encourages young people to contribute to their community’s emergency preparedness and response and will be run in Buller after having great success in Greymouth and Hokitika.

The two-phase YES programme provides 16 to 20-year-olds with a practical overview of their local emergency services. It builds up their knowledge and skills, benefiting both the individuals involved and their communities.

This year, Fire and Emergency’s West Coast team is leading the Buller programme, with Civil Defence, St Johns, Red Cross, LandSAR and Police taking part. "We will be running the first phase a little differently. Instead of each agency running an induction and practical session, the sessions will be skills-based. It will allow each agency to explain how they use the skill," explains Alexa Mills, West Coast Business Support Coordinator Rural. "We are hoping to give the participants unit standards and work-ready skills such as a first aid certificate."

Participants then attend a two-day camp where they apply the skills they have learnt in practical scenarios. Last year’s West Coast Leadership Award winner, Paul Burrell, says, "The camp was great fun. It was good to use skills we had learnt in a practical way and it also made us think on our feet.”

The second phase sees programme participants spend three months as a volunteer with one of their local emergency services agencies. Paul chose his local brigade, Brunner Volunteer Fire Brigade. "Fire and Emergency is one of the more active emergency services,” he says. “They are always busy in the community. I also liked that it was quite physical and fun."  One year later and Paul is a proud recruit firefighter in the Brunner Fire Brigade. 

The course doesn't just help with recruitment. Katie Shaw, who has organised the West Coast’s YES programme for the past two years explains, “It gives exposure to what we do and provides opportunities to pass on key fire safety messages such as smoke alarms in the house, knowing your exits, and how to use a fire extinguisher."

"It also builds relationships with the other agencies through working together on the programme, and building an understanding of how the agencies work together.”

The annual programme is currently running in other regions across the country.  Check out www.myd.govt.nz(external link) for more info about YES.  

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