The 30 or so members of the Raise Up North Shore crew are the last of over 150 young people to get trained in the New Zealand Red Cross youth safety programme, Save a Mate.

Since the end of February this year, the Raise Up crews have been working with the Red Cross to learn important safety techniques for what to do if a friend gets in trouble with alcohol or drugs, in a programme first borne out of Australia in response to rising incidents of overdosing and drug problems.

New Zealand Red Cross has developed the Save a Mate Alcohol and Other Drug Emergencies Course to reduce alcohol and other drug-related harm in young people, with the understanding that, right or wrong, young people will often choose to use alcohol and other drugs, or at least give them a try.

New Zealand Red Cross Community Trainer, Gayle Dupa, says, “While New Zealand Red Cross won’t say “do” or “don’t” to these decisions, we believe it is critical to provide the information to assist young people to make informed choices about their alcohol and other drug use – and offer some hands-on ways to help them out of trouble.”

SAM is an interactive learning experience for 13–18 year olds that takes a look at very real, and often scary situations related to alcohol and other drug use – and teaches young people how to prevent, recognize and respond to such emergencies.

YMCA Auckland’s Raise Up crews have been the perfect target of the programme, as young people working directly with other young people who are susceptible to being in environments where they might come in contact with those using alcohol and other drugs, and often not know quite what to do.

“Often at these courses we ask young people what they might do in, say, the situation of an overdose and generally the answers are the wrong ones, such as putting someone with alcohol poisoning in a cold shower. It’s about recognising potential scenarios and demonstrating the best way to respond – giving young people the tools to think on their feet if they have to.”

When Kev Carter, YMCA Community Development Manager, was approached about the programme, he thought it was a fantastic idea for the Raise Up crews to get involved.

“As young people themselves, the skills learnt through the programme are invaluable – and even more so, as youth leaders working to better their communities and help others, the course seemed like a great fit.”

Content covered in the programme, now successfully running in New Zealand for five years, includes alcohol, drugs – and the different types, effects and risk factors, as well as practical first aid education and tips for responding to an overdose.

To find out more about the Save A Mate course including how to get involved, visit: