Saturday, 30 January 2010

Air Ambulance base opens at Eaglescott

On Monday i had some kind words to say about Radio Devon when I put up a video of singer/songwriter Jenna Witts from North Devon. Today I'm also going to praise RD - I must be mellowing I think! They have singled out a particular local organisation as their charity for 2010: it is the Devon Air Ambulance that they want listeners to support, in fact I believe that they are hoping to raise £600,000 towards the cost of a new helicopter! It kicked off when presenter Judi Spiers opened the 'Steve Ford Airbase' situated at Eaglescott Airfield, Umberleigh in North Devon on the 21st of January.

I need to elaborate a bit here: This is a new facility erected in double quick time enabling one of the two helicopters to be located in a good position to get to much of north Devon in very short order. Although described as being at Umberleigh it would be more accurate to say that Eaglescott lies in that quiet countryside between Roborough and Burrington (For the avoidance of doubt I should say that Roborough here is a tiny village east of Great Torrington, not the better known place on Plymouth's periphery!). The airfield caters for a flying club, micro-lights and gliders and I think that the Air Ambulance people have acquired a long lease for the bit that they are using.

Why the title 'Steve Ford Airbase'? Steve was born in Exeter and had a good career in the army including being a bomb disposal expert. He had a love of flying, enough to lure him to a job piloting an air ambulance. Sadly he died in a motorbike accident. Evidently an all round good guy and a great idea to name the air ambulance base after him.

At this point it's worth remembering that the air ambulance idea in this country started in Cornwall. Yep little Cornwall was the location for the very first air ambulance and it has never received any money from the government coffers. I was once quite cross about this, that it was dependant on charitable donations to keep flying. However my feelings have changed and I now feel that we sort of have ownership of it and I'm proud of that. I and thousands of others pay £1 for a lottery ticket each week with the chance of a number of fairly modest prizes up for grabs - needless to say I have yet to win anything! Off the top of my head I don't know to what extent this lottery helps to keep the helicopter flying but it is regular repeat income coming in.

Back to Devon now. It is of course a very large county and both wide and deep in shape and so really does need two choppers to cover it. Although the appeal by Radio Devon is commendable there is a small downside that (slightly) bothers me. There are hundreds of worthy causes any of which are deserving of charitable donations. The problem is that many miss out because so much money is going to those organisations that gain a huge profile. An example that crosses my mind is two charities that I mentioned when I wrote about Haiti the other day: 'Shelterbox' and 'Rapid-UK'. Shelterbox has really caught the public imagination and it is a favourite charity of mine - it ticks so many boxes and is very well supported. But what about Rapid UK who not only go out to countries that have suffered natural disasters to do what they can to rescue trapped people but they also share their expertise with those unfortunate peoples who don't have the knowledge. It might be thought that 'Rapid UK' was some sort of state funded group but no they are a charity and so have to self fund. As I understand it they do have quite a job making ends meet. The huge variation in the amounts of money different charities receive is a problem and I don't really know the answer.

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