On 25 August - 4 September, more than 30 cadets and St John leaders from Malaysia attended the Youth Exchange Programme held in Nelson, New Zealand.

The programme was an opportunity to exchange knowledge and skills about first aid and home nursing, management of youth development department, and allowed the young cadets from Malaysia to experience New Zealand’s culture.

Ryan Chong, a teacher/adviser and area secretary for St John in Kuantan, said New Zealand had a very good ambulance service, and it was a "wonderful place".

He said St John in Malaysia was made up of two categories and taught a lot of first aid skills to people aged 13 to 16. Ambulance duties were for those aged 17 and over. The country had a "huge" volunteer network, Chong said.

St John district youth manager, Nelson-Marlborough, Lorna Evans said the visit was part of a planned exchange programme she hoped would lead to a reciprocal visit by New Zealand cadets to Malaysia. "It's the first time we have hosted them. I was approached about it at the end of last year.

"It's our hope that a contingent from here will go to Malaysia," Evans said.

She said the guests were happy to learn from St John in New Zealand, how it handled training.

"Casualty simulation" was not a method they were familiar with, and they were intrigued on Saturday by the fake wounds and application of makeup to give the appearance of burns and stab wounds.

Evans said the friendships and connections made through St John cadets was a bit part of its appeal, and the chance for cultural exchanges added to that. She said the Malaysians, who were travelling by bus and staying at backpacker accommodation, were pleased with their introductory dinner in Nelson, which included lamingtons, brandy snaps and Pineapple Lumps for dessert. "They all went off to the supermarket to buy Pineapple Lumps."

The visiting cadets went to Kaikoura yesterday and were due to be back in Christchurch this week where they would visit the CTV building memorial site to lay flowers in remembrance of Malay woman Sandra Hii, who died when the building collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake.