Family. Work. Volunteering

Volunteering for the Swanage Lifeboat Crew plays a big role in Rich’s life. But how does he balance it with caring for a young family and working full time job? Who pays the price?

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Family. Work. Volunteering.  These are words that I choose to live by (and in that order), however those full stops become blurred lines far too often. 

I'm Rich. I’m blessed to have three fun loving sons with my wife Vicky. We moved to Swanage from Berkshire three years ago and have never looked back. This is the crazy bunch I want to spend every minute with just walking, running, scooting, playing football, swimming, theme parking or just singing along to some Disney classics on the sofa. In the summer, you'll find me and my eldest boys swimming around or leaping off the stone quay for fun.


I’m new to Land & Wave, which is a kind of forward-thinking, ever-evolving and relatively new but established company. Everyone here just want to get people outdoors and enjoying our patch of Dorset. It's an exciting time for me to grow professionally, following 14 years working for local government, which is full of great people but is ever so constrained. 

Volunteering for me is the aspect that takes over everything far too often. Here’s the rundown: I’m two years into learning the ropes as part of the Swanage Lifeboat crew run by the RNLI. I'm also chairman of a football club in Berkshire. (Founded in the same year as Land & Wave and with similar exponential growth, the football club now has 36 teams including one at Step 7 of the national league system.) Finally, I chair a Swanage pre-school committee, which involves managing staff and recruiting other volunteers. 

Football volunteering

"Why would you do that?"

"Why don't you drop one commitment?"

"How do you have time?”

These are some of the questions I'm asked and I tend to shrug my shoulders or laugh it off. The real answer is that I do it "Because I can" 

It seems natural to follow our role models and one of my earliest memories is that of my late Grandpa Rev. Dr. David Lloyd (often officiating at St. Mary's Church in Swanage); leaving the comfort of his home where I'd spend much of my holidays to be at the bedside of those who were in their final moments. To a child this seems a strange and upsetting way to spend your freedom of retirement, but as an adult I understand this as selflessness. 

But volunteering isn't a price paid by myself, or even my other crew mates in Swanage. We know the job and that someone's need is greater. The missed meal seems a trivial issue when there's a missing child or a kayak group that hasn't returned home.  


Picture this: any crew member's family go out for dinner in Swanage. Two mouthfuls in and there’s THAT monotonic noise that these families have come to dread 'beep beep beep beep' of the lifeboat pager. For me there’s no doubt in my mind that I need to find my way promptly and safely to the lifeboat station and kit up. Before I've even sat down to eat, I’ve eyed the weather and the sea state and I've parked my car facing the station. At the point the pager demands a response, We aren't feeling selfless. We can eat later, hold children tomorrow and love again.


However I find myself looking apologetically at the other faces around the table. These people pay the price. The hours can tick by for any crew member's family, the walk home can be hard work with three children and the empty seats beg to be filled. The Lifeboat shout could take 30 minutes or 8 hours; either are a long time to children. We’re good at celebrating volunteers, but it’s not these volunteers who deserve our thanks…

Family . Work . Volunteering . In that order, blurred lines.

by Rosie Tanner

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