Lifesaving lessons in Gambia

kate slavin

A kindhearted grandmother and former nurse from the North East has just returned from a trip to the Gambia - after giving lifesaving tips to people in the local community.

Kate Slavin, 61 delivered much-needed first aid training and has encouraged her students to spread their new knowledge into every corner of their communities.

Kate, from Consett in County Durham, used resuscitation and first aid equipment donated by St John Ambulance Northumbria to teach her potentially life saving training courses, fulfilling a pledge she made to herself after witnessing needless death and illness among the local people during her Gambian holidays. And she’s going back again next month to check on her students’ progress.

She said: 'My husband Ged and I have spent our holidays in the Gambia for the past eight years and I have often helped out in quite a low-key way, talking about first aid in schools and demonstrating basic skills,' she said.

first aid training in gambia

'But when a friend of ours collapsed and died last year while we were there, I decided I needed to do more. No-one knew how to help him, medical conditions aren’t great over there and it just brought home to me the importance of basic first aid in those first few minutes after someone is taken ill.'

So Kate contacted her friends at St John Ambulance Northumbria who donated resuscitation manikins, bandages, slings, medi-wipes and boxes of gloves, which were beyond everyday use.

Work colleagues of both Ged and Kate, and people she didn’t know who contacted her by e-mail, also made donations to cover the cost of the excess baggage to transport the equipment. Then she headed back to her holiday hotel in Kotu to teach 35 hotel workers, taxi drivers and market traders how to deal with injuries including bleeds, burns, broken bones and bumps to the head.

I made them (first aid students) promise to show at least two other people their booklets and what they had learned, and then ask those two to teach another two and so on.

Kate Slavin

'The course went really well and I hope the students will take their new found knowledge back to their homes and communities to share their skills with their friends and families. I made them promise to show at least two other people their booklets and what they had learned, and ask those two to teach another two and so on.

'They all listened and worked hard to learn the new skills and promised to spread the word about the importance of first aid which is brilliant – although a few joked that they had told their wives and girlfriends that they needed to practise the mouth to mouth resuscitation on a regular basis! I hope I am not going to be responsible for a baby boom!'

Kate left the resuscitation models at the hotel and all the students were told that if they wanted to borrow them to demonstrate first aid in schools, community centres or the workplace then they had only to ask.

first aid training in gambia

She said: 'I will evaluate when we return at the end of February if they have been utilized and find out whether anyone has had to use their training, and I will report back to St John Ambulance and all those who have been so supportive.'

Kate added: 'I used to be a nurse and I keep my first aid training up to date – and it was when I took part in a refresher course run by St John Ambulance Northumbria that I decided that was the way to help, by running first aid courses for hotel staff and taxi drivers in the Gambia.

'St John Ambulance donated some surplus training kit which they would ordinarily replace, and it formed a key part of the training. It’s just a little thing, but it’s a way of giving something back to this wonderful country where we have spent so many happy times.”

Alan Percy, the training co-ordinator at St John Ambulance Northumbria, said: 'We are glad Kate’s first course was such a success and were pleased to be able to support her by donating first aid supplies that we no longer required, but which proved to be of great use for her first aid courses.

'Like Kate, St John Ambulance believes everyone should have a basic knowledge of first aid. Such skills really can be the difference between life and death. We wish her every success with passing on her first aid knowledge to others.'

Anyone wishing to donate medical supplies for Kate’s next trip should contact her via email.