St John and the Commonwealth

Museum of the Order of St John Isobel MacAuslan, Museum Assistant

The Order of St John operates in over 40 countries worldwide. Many of these countries are part of the Commonwealth, a legacy of the charity’s foundation in 1877, a time when the British Empire was at its peak. As in the UK where its primary role is to provide first aid​ through the work of its foundation St John Ambulance, the Order St John has adapted its work to fulfill the needs of local communities ​around the world. Below are just a few examples of the unique activities that St John Ambulance carries out in Commonwealth countries around the world.



The Mother and Baby programme works to provide special care for babies and their mothers, before and after birth. Volunteers visit homes and encourage mothers and expectant mothers to use medical services more frequently. In remote areas, they help staff by providing outreach clinics. In its first two years, the programme has reached 6,000 people. The Mother and Baby programme also operates in Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe. A range of services continue to be offered to mothers in the first few years of a child’s life including health education, growth monitoring and awareness at times of epidemic.



For over 115 years there has been a St John Ambulance presence in Jamaica. The rate of traffic accidents in Jamaica is one of the highest in the Caribbean. St John work with the National Road Safety Council to promote road safety in a bid to save more lives.



St John has been established in Australia since 1883. Two-thousand volunteers help to run a range of community care services for the aged, the infirm, the immobile and lonely. In addition, the charity has placed public access defibrillators throughout the country.



Cyclone season can bring serious damage to the island of Mauritius. St John provides disaster preparedness training to help reduce risk from hazards and make people less vulnerable.  In addition, the charity trains volunteers in first aid and emergency evacuation if a disaster should happen. St John has had a presence in Mauritius since 1947.


South Africa

St John Ambulance has existed in South Africa since 1879. The charity operates fourteen care clinics around the country to provide affordable eye-care for those who cannot afford commercial rates. In addition, they work in partnership with Phelophepa Health Trains which travel to remote regions to provide essential medical care in rural areas.



There has been a St John presence in Malaysia since 1908. There has been a rise in people suffering from kidney problems in Malaysia over the last few decades. In 1993, St John Ambulance established Hemodialysis centers to help filter harmful substances out of the blood. There are 17 centers across the country with 230 dialysis machines. In addition to this, members of St John Ambulance engage in community service, and visit orphanages and care homes to spend time with residents, building bridges and cleaning.



In response to the lack of palliative care on the island, St John opened a palliative home care service in 2007 for the terminally ill. It is the only service in the Eastern Caribbean Region that provides palliative care for terminally ill patients in their homes. So far, the service has helped 200 people.



St John Ambulance was first established in Canada in 1883 in Quebec. Therapy Dogs Teams take dogs to visit the elderly, children and the unwell on a regular basis to provide them with love and comfort.


New Zealand

A Branch of St John has existed in New Zealand in 1885. For 90% of the country, St John Ambulance is the provider of emergency medical services, unlike in the UK where the National Health Service provide the majority of ambulance services. The organization also offers a free Health Shuttle service, transporting people to essential appointments. Medical alarms are provided by St John Ambulance to provide older people and those with disabilities the opportunity to have more independence.


Sri Lanka

The service was established in Sri Lanka in 1906. Besides providing disaster preparedness training and relief work, St John run community-based nutrition projects in Sri Lanka. Their Youth Programme is known as the Kitty Programme and has attracted over 37,000 cadet members.



There are three branches of St John Ambulance on Malta. The Training Association, formed in 1882, was the first branch of St John Ambulance to be formed outside of the United Kingdom. The St John Ambulance (First Aid and Nursing) branch has existed since 1909. Unique to the island, the St John Rescue Corps has been trained to provide support to the national civil protection services in case there was a need for humanitarian aid on the Island. The Corps help respond to incidents such as search and rescue operations, fires and storms.

Photographs taken from the website of St John International - https://www.stjohninternational.org/
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