A Ballymena volunteer has become the first woman to be elected to leader of the North West Mountain Rescue Team.
Hazel Anderson will be leading over 60 men and women of all ages and backgrounds in her role with the organisation which was set up nearly 40 years ago.
At the same time as Hazel was being appointed as team leader, Gillian Crawford from the Limavady area and Pamela Ellis from Enniskillen were appointed as treasurer and secretary of the NWMRT respectively.
Although this is a significant development with females now holding three of the top posts on the team, Hazel believes this is very unusual but not surprising, because, as she says: “ Everyone in NWMRT, or indeed any search and rescue organisation, is treated and respected equally, no matter what age, gender, race or background. Everyone plays their part in this challenging and very rewarding work.”
Last bank holiday weekend, the North West Mountain Rescue Team, whose East Section is based in Broughshane, held their annual street collection in Ballymena and managed to raise the highest amount ever donated in the area.
Hazel was delighted at the marvellous generosity of the people of the town and surrounding district who have given great support to the team, not just by donating money.
“This will go a long way to help out with transport and equipment we need to continue our work,” she said.
Drawn from all over Northern Ireland, the team give their time voluntarily, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Hazel, an ex-nurse and manager, who works with her husband, James, in the family business, has been with the NWMRT for a number of years, and has already led major and sometimes complicated, technical operations. On a freezing night last November, a father and young son were stranded in life-threatening conditions on nearby Slemish.
Hazel’s job - as first on the scene, because she has lived in the Ballymena area all of her life - was to co-ordinate and lead the rescue team up the hill to successfully find and evacuate the couple safely back to their waiting and worried family.
This was just one of the many operations and events in which Hazel was involved and will be leading in the future, including the new, Broughshane Run, involving the entire village community, which had its successful inauguration last summer. It will be held again on 31 July this year and Hazel hopes the village and community will be as supportive as they were last year.