This assembly challenges listeners to think about the rescue services available to us, suggesting that perhaps we take such things for granted especially in more economically developed countries such as our own

It refers to the recent events following the eruption of the volcano in Iceland and examines our reaction to needing to be ‘rescued from our holidays’ compared with people elsewhere in the world who do not have the rescue infrastructure that is available to us.


Five readers and a leader


Reader 1: I want you to imagine the scene. John is a nine-year-old boy out walking with his parents on a cliff top at the coast. Being nine, John doesn’t always take heed of his parents’ warnings – in this case about staying away from the cliff edge. Suddenly John strays too close to the edge, loses his footing and falls. His horrified parents rush towards the cliff edge, dreading what they might see. John has fallen, but not too far, though he may have broken his leg and is in some pain. There’s no way for them to reach him. In an instant, John’s dad whips out his mobile, calls the emergency services and very soon the coastguard rescue team arrives, abseils down the cliff and John is rescued – and just in time for the tide was coming in and John could easily have been swept out to sea.

Reader 2: I want you to imagine the scene. Colin is fifty-eight years old and has taken early retirement. With his pension he did what he had always wanted to do – bought a small boat and is now out on the water doing what he loves most. He’s a competent sailor – always has been. But the weather starts to take an unexpected turn for the worse. Before he can take the sail in, the main mast on his boat snaps with a sickening crack. Colin is adrift at sea with the weather turning very nasty indeed. He calls the coastguard and soon, on the horizon, he sees the welcome sight of an RNLI lifeboat rushing to his aid. Despite the stormy conditions it rescues Colin and even tows his boat safely back to harbour – and just in time, for the storm turned out to be a particularly bad one and Colin’s boat would not have come through it – nor would Colin.

Reader 3: I want you to imagine the scene. Michael is nineteen years old. He’s out on the town with some friends and drinking rather too much. Unfortunately, he finds himself involved in a particularly nasty fight which leaves him on the ground badly beaten. All around him, others, equally over the alcohol limit, stand around not sure what to do – some just ignore him and party on. Through the crowds come two police officers who call in for assistance. Before long an ambulance arrives, tends to Michael and gets him to the safety of a hospital where he is treated – and just in time – Michael might not have lasted much longer lying in the street.

Reader 4: I want you to imagine the scene. Karen has been involved in a road traffic accident. She thought her car was a pretty safe one, but now finds herself inside an unrecognisable shell of twisted metal unable to move, confused and badly bleeding. The paramedics are already there, though, and have started to work on her – but they need to get her out of the car quickly. Just then the fire service arrives, produces some powerful cutting machinery and gets Karen safely out of her car, after which she’s whisked off for treatment – and just in time, remaining in the car could have meant the end for Karen.

Reader 5: I want you to imagine the scene. Lesley is twenty-three. She lives on a small island with her husband and young son. One evening after dinner, she starts to feel unwell. As the evening progresses her pain increases and eventually her husband calls the local doctor. In such a small community the doctor is not far away and she rushes to Lesley’s home. She quickly examines Lesley and realises that she needs hospital treatment immediately – for Lesley’s problem cannot be dealt with here on this island. A short phone call later is followed by the swift arrival of an RAF helicopter – which takes Lesley off to the mainland where she ends up in hospital and is successfully treated – and just in time – without the helicopter trip Lesley’s life would certainly have been in danger.


Leader: If you have ever had to use the emergency services in this country then you will know how precious they are. When things are bad and rescuers arrive it’s like they’re heaven-sent. Your gratitude knows no end and the world seems like a better place – where before their arrival it had probably seemed like a very scary and dangerous place indeed.

Here in the UK, we are fortunate to have rescue services which are second to none. There are the formal services such as police, fire, paramedics and coastguards. Then there are other services such as military transports carried out by the Navy and the RAF. But as well as these there is quite simply an army of people in our country who are prepared to put themselves out for us when we are in need – in fact they are very often prepared to put their lives on the line for us. Often these people are simply volunteers. Sometimes they are doing their job, of course, but even then they often go much further than their job requires – putting themselves at risk to help us out in so many different ways.

(You may wish to add specific comment here about rescue services in your area – you might also wish to refer to any recent rescues which have taken place locally or about which your school community is particularly aware.)

And the need for rescue is often all too real – but perhaps we take these things for granted far too easily. Last week, following the eruption of a volcano in Iceland, UK nationals found themselves abroad on holiday and unable to return home because all air traffic in and out of the UK was grounded. People spoke about being ‘stranded’ some expressed the view that their wonderful holiday had turned into some kind if imprisonment now that they were unable to return home.

Now there’s no doubt that many people suffered inconvenience and if you were one of them then it was probably not easy – but stranded? Needing rescue? Not in the same class as the situations the readers have just spoken about, is it?

And yet even here the UK government was suggesting the possibility of sending the Navy in to ‘bring people home’. It spoke almost as if the people not able to get home were stranded in some kind of war zone, instead of sitting around the hotel pool or at least safe and warm – if a little uncomfortable – in an airport waiting lounge.

Nor should we forget that in some countries of the world, rescue from anything is much more of a luxury than it is here. Some countries just don’t have the means to deal with some problems on the scale that more economically developed countries can. In some countries, rescue is a hope rather than a reality, and sometimes just doesn’t come.

So perhaps today we should stop and think about the rescue services we have available to us. Do we take them for granted? Do we support them?


Reader 1: So remember, that whatever happens to you today in this country, it is likely that someone somewhere can and will come to your rescue.

Reader 2: Remember that such rescuers may only be doing their job, but may also be doing far more than their job requires. They may also be volunteers doing this for no reward at all other than the satisfaction of helping others.

Reader 3: Remember that they may be putting themselves at considerable risk, perhaps even risking their lives, to help you – someone they have probably never even met before.

Reader 4: Remember that this is not available to everyone in the world and that for some people in the world, there might be no one to rescue them.

Reader 5: So remember to be grateful for it, and to show your gratitude in supporting the rescue services in any way you can.

Leader: Let us give thanks for the rescue servicesFor those whose jobs are about helping others in a crisisThe police, fire services, paramedics and coastguardsThe military rescue services and the army of people in all walks of lifeWho put themselves at risk for othersLet us give thanks for those who may also rescue us in less obvious waysThe nurses, the social workers, the teachers, the street workersThose who work with those in need in any wayLet us remember, too, those in the world who do not have access to such helpAnd let us make the world the kind of place where rescue is available for allLet us be grateful for these rescuers

And show that gratitude.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2010

About the author: Joe Walker is Head of RE & Psychology at Liberton High School in Edinburgh. As well as being a well-known author he was winner of Secondary Teacher of the Year at the Scottish Education awards 2005.