First Volunteer Swap for young people between England and Germany

A Volunteer Swap for young people took place in June for the first time between volunteers from England and Germany. The JOIN Volunteering and Youth Working Group has initiated this idea and after long planning, JOIN gave 24 young people and their supervisors the opportunity to experience each other’s areas of activity, learn from each other and join forces at major events.

From 7th to 11th June, seven young people and four Youth Leaders from St John Ambulance travelled to Nuremberg to join Johanniter Germany at the 38th German Protestant Kirchentag (Church Congress). There, the young St John people actively assisted in the various operational areas of Johanniter-Jugend (Johanniter Youth). Two weeks later, from 23rd to 25th June, eight young people and their supervisors from Johanniter Germany travelled from Cologne to London, where an exciting programme awaited them ending with the festivities of St John’s Day together with Cadets of St John Ambulance.

Our English and German JOIN members have programmes and associations for young people engaging them in learning about health and first aid with many social activities. These formed the starting point of the first ‘Youth Volunteer Swap’.


St John Ambulance offers young people (aged 10–17) to join its Cadet units, which operate across England and meet once a week to learn life-saving skills and support adult volunteers at events. The Cadets also engage in social action and help their local community, learn about health and well-being, develop communication skills through Cadet leadership courses, teach others first aid, and participate in residential summer camps.

Johanniter-Jugend (Johanniter Youth)

The Johanniter-Jugend offers young people (aged 6-27) opportunities to spend their free time and engage in first aid training and School first aid service, classic youth work in youth groups through joint, age-appropriate projects in the social areas and implementation of camps. The Johanniter-Jugend is regularly involved in the areas of childcare and assistance for people with disabilities at the Protestant Church Congresses and carries out campaigns to check and update first-aid kits for motor vehicles.

Volunteer Swap in Nuremberg, Germany

The 38th German Protestant Kirchentag (Church Congress) attracted well over 100,000 guests to the central Franconian city. Johanniter was on major deployment to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the visitors over five days. More than 520 volunteers from all over Germany provided first aid in emergencies, along with childcare, and medical care. The volunteers also provided driving services and assistance for people with limited mobility. Johanniter volunteers dedicated 18,331 hours of their time.

This major event saw seven young people and four Youth Leaders from St John Ambulance joining Johanniter-Jugend in Nuremberg. After the group had arrived on Tuesday with a day’s delay, as they were stranded in Paris due to the train, they went to visit the regional headquarters in Nuremberg on the same day. There they were shown both the premises and the vehicles by parts of the Nuremberg local youth leadership. After exchanging their experiences and addressing the differences between youth work in England and Germany, the group went bowling in the evening.

On Wednesday, the Church Congress started and the young people from England supported the team of the Johanniter Youth energetically and very flexibly as helpers. They were especially involved in assisting people with disabilities and limited mobility and also helped with childcare. On Thursday and Friday, the Cadets also provided support at various stands of the Kirchentag.

The English participants gave the German supervisors St John Ambulance T-shirts and lovingly handwritten thank-you cards including photos as a thank-you and souvenir of the exchange. On Saturday morning, the group returned to England.

The group vlogged their stay in a video diary, in which the Cadets reported their experiences:

Volunteer Swap in London, England

The group of young people from Johanniter Germany spent four and a half days in London.

The young people left Cologne on Wednesday afternoon and arrived in London in the evening. There they were met by a Youth Leader from St John Ambulance and drove together to their accommodation. On Thursday they went to visit an ambulance station. Besides the ambulances, they also tried out the equipment and talked about the differences in practices between the countries. In the evening, the young people took part in Cadet training. Together they trained diligently in case studies.

On Friday, they went to London Stadium to look over the shoulders of the helpers during the ambulance service at a baseball event. Fortunately, there were no casualties, so the young people practiced together and tested the equipment. Finally, in the evening, they went out for Fish’n Chips, tasted local food specialties, and went on a city bus tour.

On Saturday morning they went on an exciting and educational tour of the St John Museum. Here the young people learned a lot about the Order of St John as well as the common history and common origins with the Johanniterorden. Some interesting facts have remained in memory, such as the use of St John Gate, (the museum building), as a pub and coffee shop, the reestablishment of the Order of St John in the 19th century in the Anglican Church, the fact that women may be members of the Order of St John and much more. In the afternoon, the German volunteers went to church service for St John’s Day in St Paul Cathedral. If you simply want to visit the cathedral as a tourist, you normally have to pay an entrance fee, but thanks to their friends from St John Ambulance, the participants not only got around this, but even got tickets for the same block where the members of the royal family took their seats – directly under the dome of the cathedral. A very special honour!
Outside in front of the cathedral, a diverse programme was organized for St John’s Day with various stands. Among other things, the young people met the mascot for children under 10 years at St John Ambulance, called ‘Bertie Badger’. They learned that children (aged 5-11) at St John Ambulance are called Badgers, while young people are Cadets and talked to Jan, a cycle first responder who comes from and works at St John Ambulance. The group also met the delegation of the German Johanniterorden, who had also arrived on the occasion of St John’s Day and had a meeting with JOIN Chairman Mark Broughton.

In the evening, the young people had dinner with the ‘Cadets Of The Year’.

On Sunday, the young people had some time to explore more of London before heading back to Germany, with many lasting memories and new friends.

Follow-up ‘Youth Volunteer Swap’

Due to German school holidays and the fixed period for the return exchange around St John’s Day, the project could only be advertised in the county association North Rhine Westphalia this year.

“The participants from both exchanges had a lot of fun and a great time. The organising team has already carried out initial evaluations and learned a lot from them, so nothing stands in the way of further exchanges with young people. For a pilot project, it was a complete success,” sums up Maria Röh, deputy federal youth director of Johanniter Germany, who organised the project together with Margarethe Vahldieck from the federal office and St John Ambulance.

The organisers from both countries have already envisaged the first possible events next year – so stay tuned!