Steyning charity worker celebrated in Queen’s birthday honours

Sarah Holmes. Photo contributed by St John Ambulance
Sarah Holmes. Photo contributed by St John Ambulance

A Steyning woman who has dedicated 40 years of her life to training young people at a global first aid charity has been celebrated in the Queen’s birthday honours.

Sarah Holmes, a member of staff at the Order of St John, the major global first aid and healthcare charity, has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM).

The 53-year-old first became involved with the charity when she joined St John Ambulance Cadets in Cleveland 40 years ago.

Since then she has given a lifetime to the first aid charity, with the support and development of young people being a particular passion throughout.

She moved to Sussex in 1987 and continued her volunteering at Steyning Cadets where she became a Youth Leader, before progressing to a County Staff Officer (Youth).

She went on to become the Principal Youth Officer for Sussex where she was responsible for all the youth units and their leaders across the county.

In 2003 Sarah was appointed as Chief Commissioner Youth, a national post within St John Ambulance, and also became a Trustee.

During her time as the Chief Commissioner Youth she was integral to developing the national youth activities of St John Ambulance. She helped launch a new youth programme, developed a youth strategy, and developed a youth leader training programme, which gained national recognition.

In 2010, Sarah became an employee of St John, first as the Schools and Community First Aid Training Coordinator in Sussex, and then as a Priory Affairs Officer at the charity’s headquarters in London where she continues to administer the membership of the Order of St John and contributes to the planning of major events.

Sarah said: “I am extremely honoured to be awarded a British Empire Medal. I couldn’t believe it when the letter arrived – I was so shocked but am absolutely thrilled to be recognised in this way.

“Volunteering with St John Ambulance has allowed me to achieve so much that I may not have been able to elsewhere. The youth programme gives young people incredible opportunities, and for those who aren’t particularly academic, it can open up a career they may not think is possible.

“With 40 years of St John behind me I can certainly say I’ve had some memorable experiences. Taking the Cadets to Windsor Castle for the Queen’s 80th birthday was a highlight, as was travelling to Australia and Singapore in 2005 for the International Cadet Camp. However, for me, the real achievement has been meeting and developing the skills of so many fantastic young people over the years and helping them to become confident young adults, who feel they can try anything and can succeed in anything they want to do.”

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