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SmartStart, and First Aid lessons in Chinese, helped a mom save her choking infant

By Cheekwan Ho, Canadian Red Crosser

“I suddenly noticed my daughter’s face had turned blue and she couldn’t breathe or cough,” recounted Yani Choi, a new and first-time mom. Choi was visiting a friend and, while they were talking, she noticed her 8-month-old was choking. “Right away, I picked up my daughter and performed a back blow on her. Just after a few slaps on her back, a piece of peach came out from my daughter’s mouth and her face colour returned to pink, and fortunately she was able to breath normally.”
The Canadian Red Cross presented Yanie Choi with a Rescuer Award for saving her choking daughter’s life.

The Canadian Red Cross presented Yanie Choi with a Rescuer Award on Oct. 28th for saving her choking daughter’s life.

Knowing basic first aid can help save lives. But if you’re more comfortable learning in a language other than English, it may be more challenging to find a first aid course. More than 50 per cent of the population in B.C.’s Lower Mainland speaks a language other than English at home. Luckily, Choi was able to take first aid and disaster preparedness lessons in Chinese last year. A trained and certified volunteer with the Red Cross SmartStart program taught the course in Richmond, B.C.
In addition to learning how to save her choking baby, Choi learned what to do before, during, and after a disaster. The SmartStart program taught her how to:

  1. Know the risks in her community,
  2. Make a plan with her family, and
  3. Get a disaster preparedness kit.
SmartStart personal preparedness is “easy and fun,” said another participant. The 2.5-hour workshops are practical, culturally appropriate, and people can take it with their classmates, in community groups, or just with a group of friends.
SmartStart has been training and certifying volunteer instructors who speak a variety of languages in the Greater Vancouver region since 2002. These instructors have now taught first aid and disaster preparedness workshops in more than 10 languages and to more than 50,000 people. Some of the languages currently available include Afrikaans, Amharic, Cantonese, Dutch, ESL, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Tamil, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese.
In October, generous donations enabled the Canadian Red Cross to expand SmartStart training to Victoria, B.C. and train and certify 8 new volunteer instructors. People in the Greater Victoria region can now take essential, basic first aid and disaster preparedness lessons in Arabic, Chinese, Spanish and Filipino.

The new instructors celebrated their graduation with a potluck of delicious, homemade, cultural food, and Choi was on-hand to share her story of rescue with them. Choi’s quick actions also earned her a Canadian Red Cross Rescuer Award.

“I’m so grateful I attended this free workshop from the Canadian Red Cross which provided me with the skills to help save my baby,” said Choi. “I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn't received this training from the Red Cross SmartStart program.”
SmartStart training programs are ideal for people who prefer to learn in a language other than English, who may be new to Canada, who are elderly and living on their own, who are childcare providers, and for many others. For more information or to book a SmartStart workshop for your group, please contact the Canadian Red Cross at, or phone 1-800-565-8000.
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