No matter our nationality, we are all trying to better ourselves and be part of a better South Africa
“This will probably come as a surprise to everyone, but I’m terrified of water,” said National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) NSRI crew member volunteer Alicha Janse van Rensburg. “Since I was little, I have been scared of the water and when I say water, I mean all bodies of water, including the ocean, rivers, dams, swimming pools.”
Janse van Rensburg recounts that she has almost drowned her father twice while out snorkeling.
“Since I started diving in 2014, I have been working on this fear,” she continued.
“When I joined Sea Rescue I learned to control the fear. I feel like I have mostly overcome this fear. I still sometimes get scared, then I tell myself someone else needs me more than I fear water. Then I get the courage and go again.”
She believes her fear of the water came from being knocked over by a big wave as a small girl but this hasn’t stopped this 22-year-old from immersing herself in the operations of the NSRI, which is dedicated to saving lives on South African waters, both coastal and inland.
She is a horse trainer and graphic designer and is studying to become an online English teacher, but her heart lies with the NSRI, which she credits for saving her during a dark period in her life.
“I was going through a pretty bad time in my life and started feeling like nothing I do matters to anyone and that I will never be able to make a difference for anyone,” she said.
She had befriended an NSRI volunteer in late 2017 who had told her about the volunteer organisation.
“Then one night I saw the NSRI advert People help the people on the TV and decided that it is a sign that this is where I belong. The rest is history.”
She went to a couple of training sessions as a visitor and then after “driving our station commander crazy to join, I finally got my papers and officially joined on 12 April 2018”.
Her role as a volunteer is to contribute to the main mission of the NSRI – saving lives on South African waters. She does this by doing anything she can to contribute.
“As a trainee I made sure I went to almost every weekly meeting and training session I could. I also went to the station with every call-out I could. I didn’t go along, but made sure that the boats were ready to launch and helped with the launch,” she said.
“I also made sure that the trailers were ready for their return, as well as the fuel, soap and bath was ready when everyone got back. While they were out, I assisted in the control room.”
Now, as a qualified crew member she can go along on callouts but is still eager to learn and train as much as possible.
To date she has around 200 hours as a trainee and 16 hours officially logged as a NSRI crew member.
“Most people will say that they enjoy going out on the boats the most. For me, it is the feeling I get when I know I contributed to helping someone in need. I love helping people in any way I can.
“I do love the thrill of going out on the boats and the training. I also love being part of the Sea Rescue family.”
She further puts her NSRI experiences to good use by teaching small groups, including school children, on water safety.
“I thoroughly enjoy being around children and teaching them about water safety and the pink rescue buoys”, she said of two of the NSRI’s key drowning prevention programmes.
Asked what she hopes to do one day, the multi-talented Janse van Rensburg answered, “I would honestly love to have a career within Sea Rescue. I would love to become a Training Officer for Sea Rescue.
“I love teaching overall and though I can get a bit shy at times, I have grown within my own station and have gained a lot of confidence,” she said. “I am starting to outgrow my shyness and getting more comfortable in front of people.”
For a shy someone with a fear of water, the NSRI has been the perfect home for Alicha Janse van Rensburg.
When asked to comment on the youth of South Africa, Janse van Rensburg believes, “We should be kinder to each other and work together to build each other up. No matter our age, gender, race and nationality, we are all trying to better ourselves and be part of a better South Africa, and therefore we should be helping each other to reach our common goals.”
NOTES TO EDITOR
June is celebrated as Youth Month in South Africa to remember the sacrifices of past generations of young people in the attainment of freedom and also to recognise the role of youth in shaping the future of the country. Youth Month 2020 was launched under the theme Youth Power: Growing South Africa together in the Period of COVID-19.
The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) is the charity organisation that saves lives on South African waters – both coastal and inland. The NSRI works to prevent drowning through rescue operations, education and prevention initiatives. The NSRI is totally reliant on donations and sponsorships in order to do the work of saving lives, changing lives, and creating futures. Visit www.nsri.org.za for more information.
The minimum age for joining the National Sea Rescue Institute as a trainee rescuer is 16 years of age. Some NSRI stations offer a junior academy where candidates are able to join in for some of the theory related training from age 12 onwards. On these bases, these candidates are able to become fully fledged rescue crew once they have passed the minimum number of sea hours and practical assessments shortly after turning 16 – due to the benefit of having completed most of the theoretical aspects sooner.
Please note, that as with any trainee and any volunteer – training conditions and expectations are appropriately matched to the candidate’s ability, to manage their safety.