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Royal appointment – volunteer honoured by the Queen

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Jane Walker, chair of the Gloucestershire Priory Group of the Order of St John, has been honoured by the Queen for her outstanding voluntary service, writes Katie Jarvis.

Lady Walker, who lives in Bisley, has been appointed a Commander – the equivalent of a CBE – of the charity known for its first aid and caring work in the community, particularly through St John Ambulance.

Jane revealed: “I had a letter saying I’d been nominated, but I couldn’t tell anybody for two months until it had been approved by Her Majesty.

“It’s really nice – but what I want is for the attention to be put on St John. The work our volunteers are doing on the ground is amazing. The public has often seen them at events, or taking people to hospital by ambulance, but not everyone realises the sheer scale of the work they do.

“Throughout the pandemic, the charity has been recognised by the Government as an on-going crucial support to the NHS. Nationwide, trained volunteers have helped staff Nightingale Hospitals and vaccination centres.”

The Order of St John was founded in the 11th century when a hospital was set up in Jerusalem by Benedictine monks. Their mission was to provide care for pilgrims travelling to the Holy City. Today, the charity specialises in instructing adults and children as young as five in basic first aid and lifesaving skills, as well as promoting mental health and well-being throughout communities. 

Jane is chair of the St John Gloucestershire County Priory Group, set up to support the work of St John Ambulance, through fundraising, ambassadorship, and organising its annual honours and awards. In Gloucestershire, there are more than 650 current volunteers spread across four adult units and eight Cadet units (12-18 years) and Badgers (five-12 years).

A nurse for 40 years before retirement, her values chime perfectly with the charity’s ethos.

She added: “It’s easy to see the more glamorous side of a county like Gloucestershire, but I worked in the continence service, where I have often visited people living in terrible conditions of poverty and poor health. 

“The work of St John is invaluable here and throughout the country. It’s about instilling a caring ethos in communities and the people who live in them, from a very early age. If you’re helping a member of the public, that implies you have no prejudices – racial, gender or otherwise; you’re just helping because you’ve come across someone in need.”

It was Jane who revived the Gloucestershire County arm of the Order in 2015.

“I now have such a good team around me, and this honour is definitely for them, too,” she said.

For more information, visit www.sja.org.uk and Stjohnengland.org.uk/counties/posts/gloucestershire-south-west

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