Charity of the Week – St John Ambulance, Orpington


We are all accustomed to seeing people from St John Ambulance (SJA) at a sporting event or a community show but how many of us know about their history or what they do now?
The long and diverse heritage they are so proud of goes all the way back to Jerusalem in the 11th century where the first Knights of St John set up a hospital so that they could care for sick pilgrims. The eight-pointed cross on volunteers’ uniform is the symbol worn by those same knights.

The St John Ambulance Brigade was formed in 1887 as a voluntary organisation which offered free medical care and has been a presence at most major public events since the jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria’s 50 anniversary on the throne to the London bombings on 7 July 2005.

SJA has a unit in Orpington which has been around since 1920 and it is thought that it could have formed as a result of the SJA presence in the area during the First World War. Since the Orpington unit was formed it has moved to many different locations and is now based at TS Whirlwind which is the Sea Cadet Hall on Park Road.

A lot of the history about the unit was destroyed in a fire in 2013 so if past members of the unit can help fill in the gaps then please tweet @SJAOrpington!

SJA Orpington attend both the Remembrance Sunday and Armed Forces Day services in addition to attending St Olaves rugby games, the Orpington Marafun, the May Queen crowning and many other events through the year.

“It is great feeling to provide care and assistance to someone whatever their concern, injury or condition. The ability to turn what is a sad or unhappy situation into a happy or positive one is special.”

As part of an adult only unit headed by John Matthews the volunteers train regularly to maintain their skills and take assessments yearly to ensure that they are competent. Volunteers from the unit provide training to local schools and members of the public and would like to expand that work but need more volunteers – could you be one of them? There are several volunteer roles and perhaps you could fill one of them?

  • First aider – be part of a team that saves lives. As a first aider, you’ll deliver care to people in need at public events in your community
  • Professional clinical roles – nurses, doctors and paramedics play a vital role for us at larger events. Clinical leaders support the professional development of our first aiders and help us keep our standards high
  • Working with young people – can you inspire the next generation of life savers? As a youth leader, you’ll encourage and inspire young people from all walks of life to develop their potential
  • Management positions – whether it’s looking after your local unit, or supporting a number of units in your area, as a volunteer manager you’ll gain experience and develop your skills, and help us deliver our life saving work
  • Support roles – we’re also looking for volunteers who can lend their expertise to roles such as safeguarding, human resources, quality assurance, fundraising and communications, and health and safety.

Pciture 2

All of this takes money and the unit (as well as other units across the country) are reliant on funding. As you can see, your donation, no matter how small, can go a long way.

£4 – The price of a meal deal lunch can give a child a 60-minute first aid lesson in school
£7 – The price of two pints of beer can run one of our ambulances for a day
£25 – The price of a takeaway for two allows us to equip someone with the first aid skills to save a life
£40 – The price of your monthly TV package can train a volunteer to give first aid at events like football matches and concerts
£60 – The price of a pair of trainers can provide a volunteer with the kit they need to save a life
£100 – The price of your family’s weekly shop can train a young person to teach other young people in essential first aid skills


You can find St John Ambulance in Orpington on Twitter as @SJAOrpington.

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