Wow! It’s been the usual busy chaotic summer season with lots of challenges and inspirations to keep everyone charging. There has also been a lot of activity behind the scenes and I would like to take this opportunity to share with you an initiative members of the committee are engaged in.
As you are aware the refugee crisis in Europe is escalating and there continues to be a large number of drownings in the waters between Turkey and the Greek Islands. This past weekend saw 40+ refugees drown in freezing waters, 17 of which were children. A European reporter called it an epidemic that they are not sure how to address.
A couple of Bethells members have been thinking long and hard about what we as a club can do to help, and over the past few weeks have established communication with a UK based organization, United World College (UWC) Atlantic College who are training and supporting Greek lifeguards, as well as guiding refugee boats to safe areas of the beach http://www.atlanticcollege.org/blog/2016/01/05/alumni-rescue-boat-helps-refugees/. UWC Atlantic College have invited our club to join them and their operations in Greece with Lifeguard Hellas. http://www.lifeguardhellas.gr/en/ .
The Bethells Beach Surf Life Saving Patrol Committee agreed to support this initiative, to donate an IRB to the cause, to help train crews to use the IRB and equipment, and to assist Lifeguard Hellas in their operations. We have been told that IRB’s are valuable due to their size and ability to get refugee craft close to safe landing sites.
A team of six have been selected to go to Greece in April, when it is anticipated a greater number of refugees will attempt the journey across the four-mile stretch of water. This will also allow for hand over from UWC Atlantic College who will head home for a well-earned break.
The project, expected to take 3 weeks including travel time will be the first New Zealand involvement outside our government’s announcement to accept more Syrian refugees into our country.
The planned departure date is the 22nd of April which is designed to align with the Anzac Day weekend, once again Kiwis assisting in a crisis.
The project location is the Greek island of Lesbos, which is a nine-hour journey from Athens and the destination for the estimated 3 million refugees who will attempt the four-mile crossing from Turkey, between now and October.
Project costs of around $80,000 to $90,000 will cover flights, freight, insurance and other incidentals. The cost of the IRB, which is a decommissioned craft, is not included.
The club has engaged a public relations company to assist with fundraising and to raise the media profile through the press, radio and television.
The following link outlays what an Australian compatriot is presently experiencing on location -http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/26/europe/australian-lifeguard-cannot-help-migrants/index.html .
This project is a huge undertaking that requires the support and assistance of the entire club to make it happen. We are hoping that this will be the first of many trips to assist with this crisis and we all feel a sense of both pride and trepidation about what we will face once there.
Lifeguards and associate members, by their nature are caring, giving individuals and prove this constantly by giving up huge amounts of time and energy in the pursuit of all manner of lifesaving endeavours.
This is an opportunity to show New Zealand and the world that we will go to extraordinary lengths to help our fellow man and assist in any way we can.
I know we can count on your support and encouragement to help us achieve this goal for not only BBSLSP but for all surf affiliates throughout the country.