Helping with Dartmoor rescues

Openreach’s support for volunteering means Garon Willis can balance work with helping to save lives on Dartmoor.

Openreach employee fundraising

Garon joined the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team in Tavistock in July 2010 at the age of 55.

"I realised I could use my enthusiasm for the moors and local area to help people in trouble,” he says.

"It can be very rewarding to find people who are extremely grateful to be rescued, or find vulnerable people who’ve been missing for a while. But it can also be upsetting. Sadly, not every callout is successful.

"We’re called out at all times of the day and night,” explains Garon. "But the police typically call the team towards the end of the day.”

This means much of his rescue activity is outside working hours. Openreach encourages three annual days of volunteering time. So far this financial year Garon has volunteered 482 hours.

His work is varied. He’s had helicopter training with the Navy, RAF and police, and he’s assessed trainees in the early hours of Saturday morning.

"Our team has even gone on rescue dressed as Bavarians in lederhosen when we were called out at the beginning of a fundraising carnival.”

Recently, he was on a conference call with a senior manager when he received an alert.

"I had to go there and then,” he says. "We were out for the rest of the day searching for an elderly man with dementia who had gone missing from his home and hadn’t been seen for a couple of days.

"Fortunately, Openreach and all of my different managers have always been very supportive.”