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Volunteer Voices7th June 2024

Volunteers’ Week: RNLI Gallery Volunteers

The Historic Dockyard Chatham holds the UK’s largest collection of historic lifeboats. The gallery is maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers, including Paul Severns who has a lifelong interest in the RNLI.

Paul shares what is involved being an RNLI Volunteer at The Historic Dockyard Chatham.

“Presently we have 30-plus volunteers in the RNLI Team, all across a large spectrum of professions; from ex-policeman, pathologists, full-time lifeboat station managers, city gents, merchant seaman, lorry drivers, and computer experts to name but a few.

Most of us are retired but some are in full-time employment and all bring different skills to the Museum.

We meet every other Saturday during the season but there are a few volunteers that are in the gallery every Saturday.

The aim is to maintain the boats in the museum by keeping the collection clean and presentable for The Dockyard’s visitors.

The aim is to present the boats accurately, therefore we are not allowed to embellish them. However, preservation does allow us to repaint and clean the vessels. As a group, we have recently finished working on three boats, which has included the boats’ names being added in traditional sign-writing.

The next boat the volunteering group will work on is the St CYBI. Next time you are visiting The Dockyard, stop by the RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection to find out what we have been up to.

Telling the RNLI Story

Keeping the boats presentable can be hard work but it is very rewarding, particularly when we receive appreciative comments from visitors.

Our aim is to open up some of the boats to the public, making it a more exciting visit to the gallery by enabling visitors to get a hands-on experience. We currently provide permanent access to EDWARD BRIDGES and occasional access to SUSAN ASHLEY and SPIRIT OF LOWESTOFT when a volunteer is in attendance.

As a group, we RNLI Gallery volunteers play an important role in helping to communicate the RNLI’s story both past and present. It is a pleasure to interact with Dockyard visitors both young and old.

Volunteers’ Week celebrates volunteers’ amazing contributions to communities across the UK.

The celebration starts on the first Monday in June every year. It’s a chance to recognise, celebrate and thank the UK’s incredible volunteers for all they contribute to our local communities, the voluntary sector, and society as a whole.

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