Keetika lives in the village of Betio on Kiribati’s main island of Tarawa. She’s a happy, healthy child who likes to put everything in her mouth. But when one of the village children gave her a piece of pancake when she was just four months old she started choking.

“She was very small then so I turned her on her stomach, held her in one hand and gave her some blows to the back with the other hand,” grandmother Teabike Kaintiku says.

“Then when it came up I hooked the piece of pancake out with my finger. She cried for a while but recovered quickly.”

Teabike learned how to save a choking child from Kiribati Red Cross Society first aid instructor Taborenga Takabea. A few months before the incident Taborenga and other instructors had run a first aid course for around 50 people in the village, covering the basics of first aid. Teabike says she would not have known the back blow technique if it wasn’t for that course.

The Kiribati Red Cross has run similar courses in about 6 villages now, with about 6 more to go. Taborenga, who was trained by New Zealand Red Cross first aid instructor Peter Winthrop and recently did a refresher with New Zealand Red Cross first aid delegate Cate Keville, says she is impressed Teabike retained so much of what she taught her.

“I feel very happy, excited and proud that what I teach she uses very well,” she says. Asked if that means she is a good teacher, Taborenga smiles shyly and replies, “Maybe”.

Since the pancake incident, baby Keetika has choked a second time on a piece of donut, and once again her grandmother saved her. Teabike has also helped with a few other injuries around Betio Village, including a woman who was burned by boiling water.

“I feel really ready now for anything that might happen in the community, to be able to help,” she says.