The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

Norfolk migrant rescue swimmer seeks church invite

A Norfolk Search and Rescue Worker who recently volunteered as a specialist Rescue Swimmer saving migrants from drowning in the Central Mediterranean and Aegean Seas is looking for the opportunity to share his experiences with Christian, church and community groups.

Paul Chamberlain (43) from Banham has recently returned from his second mission volunteering with the search and rescue NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) as a specialist Rescue Swimmer evacuating people from migrant boats in the Central Mediterranean Sea.
Paul, a Vice-Chairman of Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue (NORLSAR) is now seeking the opportunity to talk to church, Christian and community groups about his experiences.

He said: “I would love the chance to talk to any group you may be involved with about what’s going on, what I’ve done, what I’ve seen. I have photos, stories and videos, not the impersonal video as seen on the news, but real people.”

MOAS was set up in 2014 following Pope Francis’s visit to the Italian island Lampedusa.  The NGO, which has volunteers from across the world, is founded on strong Christian values and strives to achieve a mission that no one deserves to die at sea. The NGO positions itself at sea in critical migrant routes such as the Central Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Andaman Sea. It has saved more than 13,000 lives to date.

Paul said: “What struck me in the Mediterranean was just the scale of the problem.  When we look at it on TV we think ‘that must be quite bad’.  But when you see the first boat of migrants, and crammed into that one boat are 126 people, then that’s a real eye opener.  You’re dealing with that most days, but not just one boat.  At one point we had five or six boats around us.

“You don’t hear about this on the news.  And we are desensitised anyway.  For me now these people aren’t just migrants they are real people with real stories and real lives.”

Paul, who is not a churchgoer himself, spent just over two weeks on the Responder boat based at the Greek island of Samos at the end of April and then volunteered for another mission on the Phoenix boat in the Central Mediterranean at the beginning of June.  Having been back just two weeks, he is already starting to think about going again.

He said: “The thing is I’ve got this belief that if it were my kids or family that were in difficulty, I’d want to know the best resources were available to them, whatever they are, wherever they are from, are coming to assist them.  I’m lucky that I’ve got a unique skillset that I am able to contribute in a more hands on way”.

“You can argue all you want about the whole migrant, terrorist and Brexit issues, but at the end of the day these are people. And it’s not about whether they are Christian or Muslim, Sikh or Hindu.  It’s just about being human and saving lives.”

Paul, who has a teaching background is also exploring developing some learning resources for schools and youth groups to compliment the Citizenship and PSHE curriculum. He would welcome the chance to talk to anyone who may be able to help him with that.

If you would like to invite Paul to speak to your group he would welcome your email at Chamberlainpc@aol.com.

Photo: Rescues in the Mediterranean with the Phoenix SAR crew © By Jason Florio / MOAS.eu 2016 All Rights Reserved

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