The Southern Africa Firefighters Youth Development Association (SAFYDA) Fire Fighting Cadet programme for children from 12 to18 years old

12 July 2019

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SOUTH AFRICA – “The Southern Africa Firefighters Youth Development Association (SAFYDA) is a formidable example of what happens when passionate career professionals want to positively impact their surroundings while imparting some life skills through their vocation,” these are the words of Priscilla Ferris, the marketing director at SAFYDA. “What started out 15 years ago at the Florida Fire Station as a programme that was meant to keep fire fighters’ children occupied on Saturdays, has turned into a fully-fledged youth development programme,” she added.

The founders of the cadet programme, Jocelin Flank and Deon Esau, are career fire officers with the City of Johannesburg, who between them have more than 50 years of fire fighting experience. “You can find these two gentlemen putting the kids through their paces every Saturday at the Florida Fire Station or Florida Lake on Sunday from 09h00 to 14h00 during school term,” said Ferris. “The programme accepts children from 12 to 18 years old and there are no set entry requirements; we take all children from all backgrounds. We have been fortunate enough to recruit 200 kids a year into the programme through pure word of mouth,” she added.

Together, Flank and Esau initiated the South African Fire Youth Academy to develop the next generation of EMS responders. The two have for the past 15 years, devoted their time and personal resources to empower young people between the ages of 12 and 18 with basic skills in fire and water safety, life, leadership and communications skills.

Every year, commanders Flank and Esau and their team take on 220 aspiring cadets and train them at the Florida Fire Station. Many of the cadets are from poverty-stricken communities and indigent families. For about eight hours every Saturday and Sunday, the children commit themselves to learning life-saving skills that will advance and impact their lives and the lives of the people around them in a positive manner. Once the cadets have completed the full programme and reach the age of 18, they become eligible to enrol in the EMS Explorer Programme for the full preparatory training to become qualified fire fighters or emergency medical technicians.

The academy has remained a pillar in the community for the past ten years and continues to role model ethical servant leadership within the public service. SAFYDA is a non-profit, non-political, non-aligned voluntary organisation committed to a foundation of excellence for the youth of southern Africa by empowering and inspiring them to stand out and be different from the rest.

With the growth of the programme over the last few years, there has been a strain on resources especially with the officers having to consistently fund the programme from their own pockets. This has led to a formal formation of a non-profit organisation to try and build the profile and access funding avenues to grow and sustain the programme.

“At SAFYDA we aim to create opportunities that support, build and grows the youth to be first responders through mentoring, education, training, development programs, networking and recognising excellence,” said Ferris. “We would love to get the message out there and recruit children from all communities,” she added.

The Cadet Programme takes place every Saturday and during school terms at the Florida Fire Station and Florida Lake. Anyone who likes to join the programme can contact Priscilla Ferris on 073 404 7742.

The programme is in dire need for sponsorships and donations such shoes, clothing, food and funds in order for it to continue its excellent mentorship programme. Please contact Deon Esau on cell: 083 239 1274, email: or Jocelin Flank on cell: 082 335 1217 or email Visit their website at

SAFYDA banking details:
Bank: First National Bank
Account Number: 62707859859
Branch Code: 250655

Fire and Rescue International commends Esau and Flank for their inspiring programme, giving back to communities and investing their time and effort in developing young leaders.

Sources: Deon Esau, Joselin Flank and Westside-Eldos

Lee Raath-Brownie
Managing Director
Cell: 082 371 0190

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