tbabvolThe odds of finding someone who has dedicated 20 years of his/her life to voluntary service is slim, so it is indeed a long shot to find a husband and a wife who have done this together.
Gary (54) and Shirley Müller (51) of Bothasig have been serving as volunteers for the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management Centre since the 90s.
They have seen riots, blazing fires, fatal accidents, gunshot and stab wounds, and people in desperate need.
Alternatively, they have also witnessed tears of joy, rejuvenation, reconciliation and hugs that seem to last forever.
Making a difference for no compensation is probably the most noble thing one can do in a society that has been consumed by isolation and self-interest.
They received a pat on the back by the city in December last year at the first annual Disaster Risk Management Volunteer Awards – along with 104 other volunteers.
The volunteers’ “outstanding dedication to duty”, equates to 985 years of voluntary service to safeguard Cape Town.
About 45 of those years were contributed by the Müller-family, who are currently based in the Milnerton unit.
Says Gary: “I started in May 1990 and Shirley started one year after me. Those days it was Civil Defence and then changed to Civil Protection. It started when we took our son to an open day at Milnerton fire station. There was a stall that elaborated a bit on this volunteer programme and I thought it was fascinating!”
Gary’s love for first-aid was the catalyst for his enlistment and since then he has used this knowledge to save hundreds of lives.
Just this Saturday he started at 18:30 and only signed off at 03:30. In this time they attended to a motor accident, a stabbing incident of a youngster, a house robbery in Table View and a suspected heart attack at Killarney racetrack.
It often happens that injured or sick people are taken to the fire station before they go to the hospital, so one moment the volunteers could be keeping themselves busy in the operations room and then they are tasked with emergency CPR.
Gary spent more than 400 hours last year doing voluntary work at the Milnerton unit. He also works for ER24, so there is precious little “Gary-time”.
Shirley used to be more active in the the care and comfort section of the unit, but these days she has become less involved due to the demands of her day-time job at Trafalgar Property Management.
When asked why people should consider becoming volunteers she responds: “The medical staff we have at the moment are so over-worked. People sit on their backsides and do nothing! Why don’t they give something back to the community?”
Gary is also the chairperson of the local neighbourhood watch, part of the community policing forum and has previously helped out at the victim support unit.
“Youngsters from as young as 16 can become volunteers at the Milnerton unit, which keeps them off the streets. Over the years there have also been many who used this as a stepping stone to become firefighters and paramedics,” he adds.
Gary and Shirley’s stories captivate one and all, so in many ways they are compensated in experiences and a feeling of making a difference.
Sometimes they will just walk around in some mall then someone will come up to them and thank them for saving someone’s life or delivering a baby.
“Half of Du Noon can be named after me – since I delivered them into this world!” laughs Gary.
Volunteers enlisted with the city have played an important role in assisting during major incidents and disasters in Cape Town, such as major wildfires, flooding and fires in the informal settlements and even dealing with oil spills along the coastline.
* Contact Gary on 083 402 9218 if you want to join any of the organisations he belongs to.