Global nonprofit rescues migrants at sea

World Today

A US nonprofit wins the hearts and minds of rescued migrants

Volunteers from one nonprofit organization say rescuing migrants at sea can mean winning hearts and minds for the United states. But reactions from some Americans are mixed.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

Global nonprofit rescues migrants at sea

Global nonprofit rescues migrants at sea

Volunteers from one nonprofit organization say rescuing migrants at sea can mean winning hearts and minds for the United states. But reactions from some Americans are mixed. CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.
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Jim Houck and Tom Pickles are firefighters with the Poudre Fire Authority in northern Colorado. Helping and saving people is what drives them in their career.

“When the tones go off and we roll out of here in the fire engine, I don’t know if you’re male or female, I don’t know what country you’re from. I don’t even know if you’re a U.S. citizen.” Houck said.

That blind willingness to help people in need was put to ultimate test for two weeks last November off the coast of Libya.

As volunteers for Global DIRT — an international non-governmental with a focus on disaster risk reduction, and response — Houck and Pickles found themselves on a ship trying to save migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea on homemade rafts.

“What I came to realize was that they’re victims of human smuggling. They paid basically their life savings. And they’re told that they’re going to go on a ship to Europe. They’re told if you turn around, we’ll shoot you,” Pickles said. “If they pass the search zone or if they don’t make it to the search zone, they die.”

Houck and Pickles’ adrenaline during these intense operations pushed their emotions into the background.

Once they arrived back home, they discovered reactions of their work weren’t always positive.

Some said they’d helped terrorists. They said they were helping people and that can only benefit the U.S. and the world.

“I think it’s vital to our survival as a nation to be perceived as the good guys. It’ll bring more trouble if we’re not perceived in that fashion,” Pickles said.

But both men said they hope to be back on the front lines, later this year.