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Now and then, volunteers are called to leave South African shores to face new challenges and, yes, save lives in other countries. We caught up with three NSRI ‘alumni’ to find out how they’re faring…

Herbert Meth: Head of the Ascension Island Sea and Land Rescue Service

Former Station 10 (Simon’s Town) coxswain and Training and Development Officer with the NSRI

‘Herby’ Meth left South Africa in 2021 to work for the Ascension Island Government as Head of the Ascension Island Sea and Land Rescue Service in August 2021 and credits his time at the NSRI as the perfect foundation for his current role.

“Taking up this international role has allowed me to broaden my horizons professionally and personally,” he says. “All the skills and experience I gained while volunteering and working for the NSRI have prepared me for this. Life as an expat can be challenging and exciting at the same time, but not a day goes by without thoughts of home: family, friends, places, and the South African way of life.”

Herby’s crew of 18 – hailing from St Helena Island, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe – services this remote volcanic island with a population of approximately 800. “One of the main challenges we face is dealing with the need for medevacs during serious emergency medical situations,” he says. “From a general operation perspective, you must plan effectively as equipment and supplies are imported. The procurement and shipping process naturally takes longer than most other SAR organisations are used to. However, with the recent completion of a new runway project, more regular flights are available.”

Herby still regards Station 10 as his original “sea rescue family” and his time with the NSRI as a “special time” in his life: “One forms very close bonds with people when you do the kind of work we do, and those friendships go on forever.”

Daniel Heimann: Consultant for the Dubai Police Maritime Search & Rescue Unit

Former Station 6 (Gqeberha) crew member and Training and Development Officer with the NSRI

Daniel says it was at the NSRI that he cultivated his love of rescue work and teaching, which inspired a complete career change in 2015.

“I was a volunteer at Station 6 for 12 years and was then offered a position as a training instructor at NSRI HQ, where I spent about four years learning the ropes. Coming from an automotive, engineering, and manufacturing background, I never imagined I would like to be a teacher. But then I realised: wow, you know, I really enjoy this.”

He describes his move to Dubai as “bitter-sweet”: “I was offered an opportunity to come over here and do an audit on the Maritime Search and Rescue unit for the Dubai Police. Once the report was finished and I handed it in, they said: well, you've come this far; now you've got to stay here and complete the job! It was a difficult decision to leave the NSRI and South Africa, but my wife and I had always wanted to live abroad, and we wanted our boys to see the world, so we stayed [in Dubai].”

Daniel has been “working his butt off” learning the language, and is now able to teach some of his lessons in basic Arabic, “which has been really great.”

“Moving here was always about the challenge. I wanted to try something new on my own and see how far I could get. It's been an incredible journey so far. I've been here for six years now. My boys have got six more years before they leave high school, and then we'll see what happens from there."

Bruce Bodmer: New Zealand Coast Guard crew member

Station 8 (Hout Bay) crew member; founder and former station commander of the Station 19 Airborne Sea Rescue (ASR) team

When Bruce’s wife received an opportunity to work on a three-year COVID-19 research project in New Zealand in 2021, the couple decided to relocate temporarily.

Bruce joined the New Zealand Coast Guard and has been working at their Auckland Coast Guard Station.

“It’s very different, as there are about a million watercraft here, and the sea traffic is extremely busy. So, I’ve had to upgrade my navigation skills. Typically we will be on duty for a 24-hour period, sleeping on the rescue boat – thankfully, I get to have my own cabin!”

Most callouts are for flat batteries, stuck anchors and equipment failure, says Bruce.

“The New Zealand Coast Guard is very similar to the NSRI, with 60 stations and about 2000 volunteers. Crews are very motivated. The NZCG is a highly respected organisation and almost every ‘boatie’ supports and donates to the organisation. It’s been interesting to note that we also face the same challenges when it comes to a shortage of volunteers… There’s always a shortage.”

Bruce returns to Cape Town regularly, and joins the Hout Bay crew at sea as often as possible.

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