Volunteers Week 2018

Today (2 June) marks the start of Volunteers Week.

Increasingly, volunteers are helping to fill the gaps in vital local services that have been hammered by Tory cuts - such as local libraries. Replacing paid work with voluntary work isn't my idea of how we should run the public services.

However, some organisations have always been volunteer based and are genuinely lifesaving. For an island nation to have its lifeboat service run almost entirely by volunteers is, I've always thought, extraordinary.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute, or to give it its commonly known acronym, the RNLI. The RNLI provides a 24-hour search and rescue service in the UK and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations. Since their foundation in 1824, their lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 140,000 lives. And crucially, 95% of the charity is staffed by volunteers, including the Hasting Lifeboat pictured above.

You only have to look at the RNLI’s website to see evidence of the importance of volunteers. On their vacancy pages, their voluntary vacancies outnumber their paid vacancies by a ratio of 2:1. These vacancies are for a range of jobs, advertising for fundraisers; volunteers to give safety advice; to give help in lifeboat museums; to staff the RNLI charity shops; and to work in the RNLI offices.

However, some of these advertisements are for volunteer lifeboat crew members. 

The RNLI has 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members, who can be called without a moment’s notice in the middle of the night to rescue people stranded at sea. 

Often, members of these crews are not from a previous professional maritime background- only 1/10 volunteers who join the RNLI lifeboat crews have a maritime background- and they have to undergo rigorous training in order to help save lives. 

But their impact is huge. In a single week (last week), upwards of 10 people were helped by the RNLI crews around the South East, often at very unsociable hours.  With the summer months around the corner, those lifeboat crews will only get busier.

The RNLI pitch this lifesaving work as ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things.’ And I think that’s a pretty good summary. Few things are certain in this life - but its 99% certain theat the RNLI will save lives on the south coast this summer.

N.B- If you wish to volunteer with the RNLI, take a look at their website-https://jobs.rnli.org/home.html