In the blog series ”Volunteering is diamond”, we publish articles on volunteering by students who study volunteer leadership at the HUMAK Open University of Applied Sciences. This is the first text from new students attending the course. 

Do imagination and play belong to volunteer activities of adults? Absolutely! I got a message from a volunteer: “The evening was one of the best first aid group meetings in which I have participated since 1977 until this day. It was functional, informative, amusing, relaxed and friendly, and it encouraged to learn and remained strictly on the schedule.” The volunteer´s message touched me. The day before I had given a two-hour practice to 15 volunteers of Finnish Red Cross first aid team on the theme of initial assessment in a first aid situation. Why was the evening successful?  

In the Red Cross first aid groups anybody can practice giving first aid – rescuing another. In order to gain skills, practices must be diverse and challenging. However, how to get different people who have just joined or have been engaged already for years, to learn and to practice successfully together? The focus is in trust, the joy of doing things, and encouraging feedback. The key is playing and the use of imagination.

I started the group meeting by greeting every participant with a smile and handshake. I didn’t know most of them from before. We got to know each other during a short warm-up play during which we all exercised and laughed together. Thus, we shed our nervousness. I went through the theory very concisely with the help of a mnemonic. We immediately practiced every point of the mnemonic. Everybody got to practice acting at an accident site playing with small cars. During the actual first aid training, I made a surprising sensory path by availing cardboard boxes, glass jars, pictures, and secret notes. Positive excitement and fun helped people learn new things and come together as a group. Finally, everybody got to tell briefly what they had learned and thus give feedback. At the same time, we went through the procession of the evening together.

Almost every voluntary activity needs a clear theme and a goal, an inspiring and knowledgeable leader, doing things together, challenges, learning new things, and laughter. Volunteers want experiences of success through real action, joy, and empowerment. The instructor should boldly do things in a new way. It is worth it to include play and to use imagination. In first aid groups, one can learn how to use a radiophone by playing battleships. You can practice first aid of an unconscious person in the light of headlamps outside in snowfall. Through joy and playing, one learns skills that really can save lives.

Text: Niina Hirvonen

The author currently studies volunteer leadership at the HUMAK Open University of Applied Sciences.

Translation: Kati Merikoski