Mrs. Patricia Wilcox’s introduction to saving lives began in 1966 with her being awarded First Aid and General Nursing Certificates by the South African Red Cross Society.
She qualified as a Swimming Teacher in 1975, as a Lifesaving Instructor in 1989 and as a Senior Lifesaving Examiner in 1990.
Following her appointment as an examiner she began working in Soweto as a volunteer teacher and examiner. In her own words:
“Things were quite volatile in Soweto then and travel was not always easy, no road signs, they had been removed to confuse the security forces. General lighting was provided by high security lights, no regular street lights. One of the lifeguards would meet us outside of the hospital and travel with us to the pool.
This first visit was quite an eye opener for me as I had never been to a ‘township’ before. Europeans were still discouraged from going in although permits were no longer needed.
I encountered shock and fear for my safety by most people who became aware of what I was doing.”
Over time she became aware that there were full and part-time job opportunities for qualified lifeguards in Johannesburg and she began to focus more and more of her swimming and lifesaving training towards achieving this goal for her ‘youngsters’.
In 1997 she retired early from school teaching to concentrate on her lifesaving work. Since 1990 she has trained hundreds of young unemployed swimmers as lifeguards thereby giving them a job and a position of status, as lifeguards are considered valuable members of the South African community.
In addition to her work in Soweto Patricia has served as Lifesaving South Africa’s Director of Education and Training and as a member of the Management Board. In these roles she worked on the publication of a new Stillwater Nipper Handbook, new Lifesaving Manual and new Water Safety Booklet.
She is a member of the South African Qualifications Authority in the fields of sport, recreation and fitness.
For these and her other voluntary work Patricia Wilcox has been awarded the 2010 Ireland Medal.