42-year-old sailing instructor and father of seven Mncedisi ‘Tata’ Hlalatu became an NSRI volunteer nearly a year ago. And in early 2020, he joined the drowning-prevention team as a water-safety educator for the Richards Bay area.
I started volunteering at Station 19 in August 2019. I became interested after a one-day boat-safety training exercise organised by the Zululand Yacht Club. There were about eight of us from the yacht club, and three NSRI crew members came to train us. Afterwards, we went to their base and they took us around to show us the equipment – boats, vehicles, first-aid kits, and so on. That’s when I decided to join.I’m on duty at the base when groups of kids or adults come to visit. I’m also there two Saturdays a month from 10h00 to 13h00, and on those days attend training from 14h00 to 16h30.One of my most memorable call-outs was ‘rescuing a car’ on Naval Island. It had been parked near the water… and then the tide came in. When we arrived, two of the car’s wheels were in the water. We parked our mobile about five metres away. The driver was too scared to get into the car, so one of our crew jumped in instead, and then I used the winch to pull the car out. If we had not been called, that car would have gone out to sea.Since February this year, I’ve also been working as an NSRI water-safety educator. I visit schools and communities and teach Grades R to 12 as well as adults water-safety lessons. The lessons include basic water safety and bystander CPR for older children and adults. Doing this means I can manage my time so my family comes first.Before I became a water safety educator, I was working as a level-one sailing instructor. I would still like to become a level-two instructor – maybe in 2021.I was just getting started as a water safety educator when the country went into lockdown. We used the time to install 40 pink rescue buoys in the hotspot areas where people swim.Schools are on and off with the pandemic, so I’m working from home most of the time. But I have been using social media – Facebook, Twitter and Tiktok – to talk about water safety, and I’ve done a few radio interviews as well.Even though lockdown has disrupted my plans for the year, I am grateful to be alive and kicking, fit and healthy.Contribute to NSRI’s Pink Rescue Buoy initiative by volunteering to become a custodian of the Pink Rescue Buoy in your area or by sponsoring a buoy – find out more