When a natural disaster strikes, it can take humanitarian aid programs weeks to mobilize and ship in resources. But what if those resources could already be nearby? That’s where the International Rescue Group (IRG) comes in. Instead of waiting for help to arrive, this marine-based organization mobilizes boaters already in the area who can quickly provide support following a disaster. These first few days of food, water and medicine can save hundreds of people from disease, starvation and infection.
The group’s founder, Captain Ray Thackeray, started IRG after realizing the untapped aid source of international cruisers. “Despite a huge global community of cruising sailors who are willing to help, there is no central emergency coordinate that can motivate such a large and broad resource,” says Thackeray. Originally moved to action by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and the 2010 Haitian Earthquake, he now works full-time for IRG as an unpaid volunteer.
Thackeray encourages cruisers around the globe to get involved and become IRG’s “eyes, ears and support” on rescue missions. Once a boat is registered, IRG can call upon it to coordinate a pick-up of food and supplies at a local dock, all of which will be pre-paid. These volunteer cruisers can then transport the supplies and deliver them to affected areas.
In addition to the volunteer cruiser program, the IRG is seeking crew for its recently launched mission vessel, Thunderbird 2. Beginning in summer of 2012, the 57-foot sailing trawler will be stationed in the South China Seas, poised to respond to disasters and organize nearby registered cruisers.
“We chose the South China Seas because of the preponderance for natural disasters within a week of sailing distance during a typical year,” Thackeray explains, “and for the area’s desperate underprivileged populations with few resources.” All on-board volunteers will be trained in ship management, navigation and first aid and will spend around three months on board.
Thunderbird 2 was built entirely by volunteers from a bare steel hull using mostly donated equipment and gear. IRG is still looking for donations to complete the project, including navigation equipment and lead ballast.
For more information and to get involved, visit internationalrescuegroup.org
Photos courtesy of Capt. Ray Thackeray