The RNLI and the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation have been working alongside the IMRF to develop this course to assist new and developing lifesaving services around the world. Philly Byrde, PR Officer (International), RNLI writes:

With the Olympics underway in Rio, another international gathering was taking place, this one was on a slightly smaller scale but with equally big ambitions. In August, 16 delegates – including 5 from Brazil – travelled to RNLI College in Poole, UK, for the charity’s Future Leaders in Lifesaving course. In development since 2012, the programme empowers emerging leaders to develop their own organisations and save more lives from drowning worldwide.

The programme has recently focused on tackling region-specific drowning issues in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. But this year, with the theme of Maritime Search and Rescue, the training was hosted by RNLI College for the first time since 2013.

Candidates from Brazil, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uruguay followed either the Maritime SAR Implementation or Organisational Development streams, ensuring that, in most cases, a pair from the same country would return home with skills from both disciplines.

The intensive fortnight was a time for sharing experiences with other candidates, while finding out how to develop and sustain services for the future. Each day started with swim training before breakfast, followed by classroom lessons, practical exercises and visits to fellow emergency services. The 7am sessions proved a welcome challenge for Connie Magdalena Sitindjak, from Indonesia’s National SAR Agency, who learned to swim during the course.

How did this SAR planner feel about being in the College’s sea survival pool without the familiar reassurance of a lifejacket? 'I understand better the variables of when we’re searching for a person at sea,' she explains. 'I know technically how to make a search area, but now I’ve learned to swim in a wetsuit I know what it feels like, how you can drift in the wind and current... Sharing the knowledge and experience of what it’s like to be in trouble in the water – making it come alive for people – is very important.'

Speaking to the candidates about their highlights at the end of their stay, it was surprising how small details could make a big impact on learning.

'I liked the way the sessions were delivered, with 5 minutes’ break between each,' says Daniel Mutinda, an urban risk reduction officer at Kenya Red Cross Society.

'I’ve never come across that before – the time to reflect and refresh on what we’d learned. It was really valuable, and something I will definitely take back to training at home.'

Also following the Organisational Development stream was lifeboat helm Shukuru Lugawa. The previous month, he had helped start Tanzania’s only voluntary lifeboat service from scratch, learning alongside two RNLI trainers in Dar Es Salaam. Working on sailing boats for 7 years, Shukuru’s seen more than enough to know the desperate need for change: 'I saw a boat sink in front of me. There were four people clinging to the mast without lifejackets,' he told us. 'We also need to help local fishermen to protect themselves better. Everything has a beginning. I see the problem and want to make a difference.'

This course really was just the beginning. The day we took the photos in this feature, Tanzania Sea Rescue’s first lifeboat was arriving in Dar es Salaam.

'While RNLI presenters were on hand to give guidance on everything from navigation to governance, the programme is just as much about learning from each other,' says David Whiddon from the RNLI’s International Team. 'We were benefitting from over 200 years’ collective lifesaving experience in the room, which was something quite special.'

The Guardian also visited the programme – you can read their experiences on the Global Development pages at

Future Leaders in Lifesaving was possible thanks to funding from the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation.


Photo Top: The 16 candidates with trainer David Whiddon at RNLI College. Credit: RNLI/Nathan Williams.