Since 2012, our UK colleague Matthew Atkinson, Product Owner, has undertaken multiple volunteering ventures with St John Ambulance, the nation’s leading first aid charity that provide workplace training, first aid supplies and event and ambulance services. The work carried out by the charity is entirely funded by donations and led by volunteers who give their time to help respond to emergencies, support communities and save lives.
Matt’s journey with St John Ambulance began when he signed up to volunteer the day after completing a first aid at work qualification with the charity. Starting off as an Event First Aider volunteer, where he was trained to provide first aid care to people in need at public events, he quickly progressed to become a Youth Worker, helping to provide young volunteers (aged 5-17) with the life skills to prepare them for health volunteering. Since 2013, Matt has been running sessions every Wednesday evening after work, with the aim of supporting, developing and training young people in both life-saving (first aid) and general life skills. Many of the children benefitting from this training in East London come from disadvantaged backgrounds and with English as their second/third language. After being equipped with the necessary skills, many of these young people go on to become First Aiders at local community events with the ability to save lives in a first aid emergency.
Alongside his youth work and full-time job at Collinson, Matt is now also a Volunteer Lead for London Stadium, utilising his first aid skills to look after the crowds. His roles include account management, planning and support on behalf of St John Ambulance for all of the medical deployments at London Stadium events. Leading a team of up to 80 other charity first aiders, Matt works alongside his team to provide first aid to sick and injured attendees suffering from a range of medical emergencies, from fainting fits to cardiac arrests, at large scale events such as West Ham Football matches, UK Athletics events, concerts and motor sports events.
Image: Matt at St John Ambulance’s Everyday Heroes awards after being awarded 'National Volunteer of The Year', 2018
Additionally, Matt is also currently the charity’s National Youth Event Involvement Lead, responsible for youth volunteering across England. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has also been assisting with St John Ambulance’s involvement with the Cadets, aged 14 and upwards, in their support of the NHS’s rollout of their vaccination programme. So far, the charity have trained more than 30,000 volunteers to help deliver the programme, and while the younger volunteers are not administering the vaccine, Matt helped to ensure they have been able to support the cause by undertaking logistical tasks, such as packing boxes of supplies in warehouses and supporting patients in vaccination centres.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Matt was also the Duty Delivery Manager for London and South East England, which saw him coordinate, manage and problem-solve all of St John Ambulance deployments across the region in support of the NHS’s 999-frontline.
Volunteering with St John Ambulance is an incredible experience. You learn life-saving skills that you’ll never forget, and you get to share those with the community in training, at small local events, as well as some pretty fantastic large-scale events. The highlight for me, every time, is seeing how youngsters develop as they learn and grow – starting as quiet and shy, and then transforming into highly skilled, confident and capable young people.
Matt’s role and experiences throughout his career at Collinson, such as people management skills, have been key to aiding his volunteer roles. And with the help of Collinson in allowing for the balance of his volunteering ventures alongside his busy full-time job, Matt has received multiple honours for his service to the community.
In 2018, he was awarded National Volunteer of The Year at St John Ambulance’s Everyday Heroes awards in the Volunteer Manager of the Year category, for his first aid work around Newham. The following year he was invited to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party, a yearly event hosted by Her Majesty The Queen, with invites extended to notable charity workers and volunteers. Most recently, in 2020 he was honoured with the admission to the Order of St John, a British royal order of chivalry constituted in 1888 by royal charter, in recognition of his extraordinary dedication, service and commitment to the charity. Matt was invested into the order with the approval of its Sovereign Head, Her Majesty The Queen.
Hear from Matt himself about what it means to be a Youth Team Volunteer with St John Ambulance:
If you would like to learn more about how to become a volunteer and the types of roles available, visit here.