Four-year-old Terieta Jonas lives on the edge of the ocean in the small village of Bonriki, near the airport on Kiribati’s main island of Tarawa.

New Zealand Red Cross staff paid him a visit recently to see how he was doing, after a traumatic accident that nearly cost him his life when he was just a year old.

Terieta is the beneficiary of a partnership in which New Zealand Red Cross aid workers train Kiribati Red Cross Society’s first aid trainers, who then take their skills into the tiny island nation’s villages.

On the day of Terieta’s accident, his village had gathered for a Mother’s Day celebration, and no one noticed when the toddler wandered off. Then someone spotted him face down in a nearby creek, not breathing.

Terieta’s next door neighbour Teinamam laid the boy down and started doing CPR – which he had learnt at a village demonstration by Kiribati Red Cross just the night before.

“He pumped his chest 30 times then did two breaths,” says Terieta’s grandmother Otobina.

“Then he picked him up and put him over his shoulder. Terieta was vomiting and crying but after a while he was OK.”

The neighbour who saved Terieta was one of several people who learnt life-saving first aid skills at a public demonstration in Bonriki the night before.

It was one of the first public sessions given by the Kiribati Red Cross, whose trainers have all been trained by New Zealand Red Cross first aid delegates. KRCS has done demonstrations in six villages so far, with six more to go.

New Zealand Red Cross first aid delegate Cate Keville helped to double the small national society’s first aid training capacity when she spent two weeks training seven new KRCS instructors and providing refresher training for six others earlier this year.

Kiribati is one of 11 Pacific countries to benefit from New Zealand Red Cross first aid training. New Zealand Red Cross also provides some equipment, for example mannekins.

The training helps small national societies to earn income – with commercial first aid courses. In addition first aid is often a key entry point for Red Cross into communities for other health messaging and disaster resilience programmes. Last year New Zealand Red Cross trained 46 instructors in the Pacific – this year so far it has trained 54.

There are many similar stories of lives saved by villagers trained in first aid by Red Cross. As for Terieta, his grandmother says the four-year-old was afraid of the water for a while after the incident, but he now happily swims in the sea next to his house. He attends the local pre-school and wants to be a pilot when he grows up.