NORFOLK, Va., June 24, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Volunteer services from across Europe have responded to the maritime refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas by deploying boats and crews, saving tens of thousands of lives.
Responding to the crisis for years has strained the budgets of these charities, many of which are operating far from their home bases.
"While governments run rescue coordination centers and issue news releases, it's often the charities and their volunteers who are actually pulling survivors from the water," said Dana Goward, Chairman of the Association for Rescue at Sea (AFRAS). "They do many, if not most, of the rescues."
"I've been alone in a life raft out of sight of land, and it's not a good feeling – even when it's just training and you know they're coming back for you," said Goward, a retired U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopter pilot. "I can't imagine what it's like if you're also fleeing for your life, have your children with you and have no idea if you will be rescued."
"Most people in America don't realize it, because we have such a strong Coast Guard, but most of the world's sea rescue services are charities with volunteer crews," said Charles "Skip" Bowen, President of AFRAS. "They rely almost entirely on donations for funding." Bowen's last posting during his active duty military career was as Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, the service's highest ranking enlisted member.
AFRAS raises money in the U.S. to support these sea rescue organizations. "People in the U.S. can make tax deductible donations to AFRAS, and we use it where it is critically needed worldwide," said Bowen. "Donors can specify which maritime rescue service they want to support, or leave it to us to ensure it gets where it's needed most." Bowen likes to quote retired Admiral Thad Allen, former Coast Guard Commandant, "Beyond any other consideration, safety of life at sea is paramount."
Secure donations can be made at at www.AFRAS.org. Corporations and donors making larger contributions will be recognized at a reception and ceremony on Capitol Hill in September. The event will be hosted by Congressmen Duncan Hunter and John Garamendi. Other members of Congress, senior Coast Guard, Maritime Administration and industry leaders also attend this annual event, which includes an awards ceremony for individuals and groups who have performed heroic rescues.
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SOURCE Association for Rescue at Sea