When Sir William Hillary founded the RNLI in 1824, he vowed that with courage, nothing is impossible. That courage is evident all around the RNLI today.
The charity’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards have rescued and assisted a quarter of a million people since 2009, which is a phenomenal number. I have been humbled and moved to hear some of their stories. It just makes me incredibly proud to be part of an organisation that does so much good for other people.
I like to think that I’m leaving behind an organisation that does the right thing, even when that is not the easiest path; always standing up for the values and behaviours that represent the very best of life on these islands – decency, respect for others and a desire to help people in distress. We have worked hard to modernise every aspect of our work – from deciding that we would only contact you with your permission, to removing barriers to gender equality. We now have more female crew members (500) than ever, and equal numbers of men and women on our executive team.
One of our biggest challenges has been to find ways to keep people safe before they need rescuing – to reach you before you need us. In the last 2 years, 11 people have contacted us to say they remembered the floating advice in our Respect the Water campaign, which saved their lives.
I have fond memories of sitting on a beach, watching a Swim Safe instructor leading a session in the water with a group of excited but slightly nervous children. The children came away inspired and confident, with skills that could one day save their lives.
We know we cannot tackle drowning alone. We work closely with Swim England to deliver Swim Safe, which is just one of many lifesaving partnerships we have in the UK, Ireland and globally.
I am proud that we now have made a lifesaving impact around the world. From supporting rescue services in Tanzania to creches in Bangladesh, we are helping people to save lives in their own communities. And, crucially, we are working with lifesaving organisations and governments to establish a UN resolution on drowning prevention.
The thing that links every part of today’s ambitious, multifaceted RNLI are the communities we work with. Wherever I go, people talk with admiration and a real appreciation for the work we do. This doesn’t happen by chance. It happens when a group of profoundly good people – the men and women of the RNLI – come together to pursue a single, noble ambition. They share a selfless dedication to saving lives, rock-solid dependability and the courage to make a difference.
That is why I shall step down with great sadness. But I will forever feel an intense pride that I have been fortunate enough to serve this great and inspiring organisation.
You can make a difference
Inspired to join the RNLI family and help save lives at sea? They’d love to have you onboard! Take a look at their volunteering roles.