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Helping others . . . District Cadet of the Year Harry Wilson (18) is pleased his mother made him join St John Youth all those years ago. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

If everyone took part in the St John Youth programme, the world would be a better place, Harry Wilson says.

After earning his stripes, and being named District Cadet of the Year, Harry (18) is now stepping up as a St John Youth leader.

At 11 years old, Harry felt like he was thrown in the deep end when his mother signed him up for St John Youth.

It was 2015, and his family had just moved to Oamaru from England. His mother saw the programme as a way for Harry to get involved in the community.

Seven years later, he was grateful she did.

Before joining St John, Harry was really shy.

“St John helped me break out of my shell and gain my confidence,” he said.

“There’s something in it for everyone.”

As well as being part of a tight-knit group and learning how to help others, St John taught him patience and compassion.

Asking questions to determine someone’s ailment during first aid simulations helped him in other situations too. Harry found he could get to the root of a problem by asking questions, rather than jumping to conclusions.

“Everyone is struggling with something,” he said.

“If everyone did St John the world would be a better place.”

As district cadet, Harry donned a blue aiguillette and was in a position similar to head boy – and there were others like him across the Aoraki district.

Aged 18, Harry now qualifies to be a leader, and has made the step up to become one of five in Oamaru. He would chaperon trips, help cadets and lead first aid classes.

It was great seeing the younger cadets, or “penguins”, gain confidence just as he had, Harry said.

St John area youth manager Mel Read said there was a shortage of leaders across the St John Youth organisation.

And the Oamaru and Waimate divisions were both in need.

Many of the cadets who could go on to be leaders left to take up work, she said.

But volunteers did not have to go through the programme to become leaders, as St John provided training.

“You just have to be passionate about helping children learn,” she said.

“It’s a fantastic way to give back to the community.”