It’s an intensive week for young Southlanders aged between 9 and 13 who take part in Red Cross’ Young Humanitarians programme. Every day brings new activities, new people to meet, new skills to learn.

For Saxon, the week with Red Cross is about “helping the community and giving back to people”, while Brianna sees it as “having an experience with helping people.”

From visiting Red Cross’ disaster welfare truck to meeting former refugees living in Invercargill and learning first aid, Red Cross’ Young Humanitarians programme aims to teach young people the importance of helping their community.

“I learnt that helping people can also be fun,” says Saxon.

“It gets kids out of their comfort zone, learn about what’s out there and that they can actually help other people. Because it was over a week it was great, there was no trouble getting them out of bed each day. They were happy to be going out and doing things they’d never done,” says Lisa, mum of two kids who attended the programme.

The favourite activity among the children is New Zealand Red Cross’ longest running community programme, Meals on Wheels. The kids are in charge of delivering meals to elderly people who may not be able to cook for themselves.

Meals on Wheels is giving food to the elderly who need help. Some of them were a bit lonely and needed comfort, and when we went there they had a big smile on their faces,” recalls Briana.

“When we delivered the meals, their face just lit up, because they had someone to talk to,” says Ryan with a big smile.

The programme also teaches kids new skills such as basic first aid, CPR and moving someone safely on a stretcher. Many of the skills they gain will be useful when playing sports, doing activities at Scouts or just hanging out with their friends.

“This is about getting out amongst real people who need help – they have to talk to them and deal with them and that’s been really good. Some of them didn’t even realise elderly people can’t always cook for themselves and that there are people in need in their community,” explains Kathryn, the mother of two young humanitarians.

Through volunteering opportunities and hands-on activities, kids like Briana have learned to work in a team, and have grown in confidence.

“It’s given me more confidence. Before I wasn’t a very talkative person and now I’m much more confident,” says Briana.

“Everyone should have a go [at the Young Humanitarians programme], it’s a once in a life time opportunity and it’s just so fun.”

Get involved

The next Young Humanitarians programme in Invercargill will run from 30 September to 4 October 2019. To sign up or receive more information, contact our Invercargill Service Centre via email or call 0800 RED CROSS (733 276).

If you're over 13 and feeling inspired by these young humanitarians, check out volunteer opportunities to find how you can help your community.