RCMSAR volunteer and staff member, Amber Sheasgreen, will be spending her winters holidays volunteering for Refugee Rescue and their partner Sea-Eye, a charity working to prevent loss of life at sea.
Her love for the ocean and passion for helping others, Amber is well-equipped with the knowledge to save lives as an experienced coxswain. Amber has volunteered with the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue for more than a decade, first with Station 64 in Prince Rupert and now for Station 37 in Sooke.
Leaving on December 6, Amber will spend the coming weeks training and leading a search and rescue boat crew, which patrols the waters between Europe and Africa to rescue refugees, often crowded onto unsafe boats – sometimes as many as 400 at a time.
“At least 1,559 people have died or gone missing in the Central Mediterranean route in 2021, the deadliest migratory route in the world. That’s four times more than this time last year,” Amber has indicated. October’s rescue mission which just wrapped up rescued more than 1200 people.
Last week we sat down with Amber who had this to say about her once in a life-time experience.
What role will you have with Refugee Rescue/Sea-Eye and how long will the volunteer experience take you?
The mission is slated to run between six to eight weeks starting December 6. My role will be RHIB team leader (Coxswain) for the Rescue Refugee vessel Mo Chara. I will be involved with crew training and will be responsible for monitoring the condition and crew of the RHIB. Mo Chara is the primary Search and Rescue (SAR) vessel, and we will be first on scene, responsible for communications and coordinating the rescue and transfer of persons in distress with the Sea-Eye 4 (the mission’s primary ship).
We won’t be operating off the beach or dock where you are home every night. We will be in the middle of the sea on a ship. Unless there is a serious, critical condition of passengers on board, we will be waiting until the vessel is close to full capacity before seeking a port of safety.
How has your experience with RCMSAR prepared you to volunteer for Refugee Rescue?
Volunteering with RCMSAR has contributed significantly to my RHIB experience for vessel operations and approaching SAR zones and vessels in distress. Along with the skills to lead a team safely, and work in dynamic environments. These transferable skills will be critical in leading and training the RHIB crew with Refugee Rescue. Of course, there will still be a learning curve for dealing with rescues on a mass scale and operations from a ship versus on shore. I also know there will be a lot of mental stress, little sleep, and it’s going to be very emotional. Being able to manage that – and maintain professionalism and a clear head to lead the team safely – will be an eye-opening, humbling and very rewarding experience for me.
What inspired you to get involved with Refugee Rescue?
I have always been passionate about helping people so I thought that this would be an excellent opportunity personally and professionally to see a different side of Search and Rescue and to experience it on a mass rescue level while garnering an understanding of global situations.
What do you think will surprise readers about Refugee Rescue and this mission?
Like RCMSAR, Rescue Refugee and Sea-Eye, are primarily operated by volunteers. While there are some paid personnel, especially the ticketed masters on the larger vessels, the SAR personnel and medical teams are predominantly volunteers from all over the world, passionate about the same thing, helping people in need thanks to the support of donors.
We are privileged and very fortunate to live in Canada, and though not everyone is able to help with the skills and experience that I and other volunteers do, generating awareness is just as critical.
Over five years ago there was news concerning a mass number of refugees who died during their perilous and dangerous transit across the Mediterranean on overloaded vessels. This issue is still ongoing, yet here in Canada we are not always kept apprised through mainstream and international news.
Every day there are people, children, and pregnant women on board these vessels seeking safety. They can only leave with what they have on their backs, facing danger from weather, sinking, injuries and dehydration risking death along the way. Thanks to the support from local donors, I will be joining a passionate team of volunteers to save lives at sea.
Amber in the News:
- Sooke volunteer to help prevent refugee loss of life at sea
- Prince Rupert rescuer to save refugees in Mediterranean
A member of RCMSAR Station 64 in Prince Rupert for seven years and a talented and experienced coxswain, Amber moved to Sooke in 2018 to join RCMSAR as the Headquarters’ Manager of Operations. Amber works with RCMSAR stations to help better understand and meet their operational and training needs and providing training support for members at HQ. Amber also remains an active volunteer with Station 37 in Sooke. Amber can be reached by email at email@example.com.