DUNCAN BARKES: Unpaid lifesavers who deserve your support

Would you risk life and limb in horrendous conditions to save lives without pay?

Thursday, 16th January 2014, 12:00 pm

This is what this nation’s lifeboat crews do on a frequent basis and there should be more support their excellent work.

Of course there any many other organisations staffed by volunteers that carry out life-saving activities, but I am increasingly struck by the work the RNLI do along our stretch of coastline.

I have always been a fan of the RNLI. As a young lad living in Rustington I remember taking part in a sponsored walk to help raise funds for the new Littlehampton lifeboat.

Searching for a topic to cover as part of a school project, I visited the shipbuilding yard on the River Arun where the ‘Arun’ Class lifeboats were built – very exciting stuff for an 11-year-old!

When my Dad was alive he always sang the praises of the RNLI.

As a merchant seaman he had seen first-hand how these brave men and women saved lives.

A trip to Selsey during Lifeboat Week leaves you in no doubt as to the valuable work lifeboat crews do.

It amazes me how many people believe that the RNLI is funded by the government or a local council.

There is widespread belief that all ‘emergency services’ are funded by the state.

Not so when it comes to the lifeboat stations dotted around the coast of the UK.

The RNLI is a registered charity. It relies on donations, fundraising and people giving up their free time.

Without donations and without volunteers prepared to risk their lives it would not exist.

I was reminded of this when I paid a visit to Shoreham Lifeboat Station a few weekends ago.

My mum passed away towards the end of last year and left some money to the RNLI.

The charity’s HQ decided to give the donation to the Shoreham station.

I paid a visit and during the free guided tour (available to any member of the public), one of the crew appeared to check the air levels in the station’s inflatable craft.

This chap works and lives nearby and had happily also given up part of his weekend to make sure all was in order with the station’s equipment.

Such commitment is outstanding – and this is on top of being on call day or night in case a boat is in trouble or some idiot encounters difficulties after taking to the water either ill-equipped or in conditions that are dangerous.

I plan to do more to support the RNLI this year. Selsey, Littlehampton or Shoreham, wherever your nearest station is, they deserve your support too.