To mark Mandela Month, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) is celebrating the contributions of their volunteers, of which seven are 67 years old, including Patrick Van Eyssen, deputy station commander and skipper Coxswain for the 12 metre class 1 Rescue boat ‘Spirit of Vodacom’ based at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.
Van Eyssen joined the NSRI just two years after it was formed, in 1969, aged 19, and officially signed up in 1971. Since then he has achieved just about everything, passed numerous certifications and courses and also held the position of station commander, until he felt that the “younger generation should take over the helm”.
“During the 1970s we managed without modern technology, no cellphones or the internet, using only landlines and later paging systems. The NSRI was a first-class rescue and prevention organisation 50 years ago, and I am proud to be part of an organisation which has grown over the decades, and progressed to the technology and equipment we have today, and which has become a well-established rescue organisation that is well known throughout the world,” he said.
Civilian and corporate donations are used towards the costly equipment and technology, as well as the vessels that are needed to save lives. Volunteers give up their personal time for free, day and night, and are on call 365 days a year.
Van Eyssen believes he has volunteered more than 10 000 hours and still gets “tremendous joy and satisfaction from saving another person’s life”. He has numerous long service awards which have been signed by South African presidents, including Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, and is looking forward to receiving his 50-year NSRI award next year.
He recalls unofficially meeting Mandela during the course of his duties, on Robben Island when the NSRI was called to assist with penguins covered in oil during a spill.
“Mandela Day is a reminder to everyone regarding how we should always be doing something to honour and improve the lives of others. This should be done every day but Mandela Day is a reminder of what Nelson Mandela sacrificed for others.”
Members of the public can assist the NSRI by either making a donation or purchasing the Sea Rescue clothing range labelled “Station 67” via the website – www.nsri.org.za