Interview – David Cristina

July 12, 2015 in Member Interviews

DavidCristinaFor this edition of our quarterly newsletter, I have the pleasure of interviewing one of our leading members, David Cristina. This 29 year old bald person (to quote his own humorous words) considers himself to be very determined, someone who does not easily accept no for an answer and is always willing to push to the next level. Also, he is technically minded, always on the lookout for new challenges and a team player, who shares a deep passion for mechanics and engineering, and loves to take an active stance. Besides contributing to the EFRU, David’s hobbies include cycling, diving, hiking and boating. On a professional level, he is an engineer working in a financial institution as Head of IT.

The first question which I like to ask my fellow team mates is what motivated them to join the EFRU in the early days. David tells me that along with his wife Miriam (who was his girlfriend at the time),he was willing to join a voluntary rescue organisation which offered rigorous training in various disciplines.Also, the EFRU gave them the opportunity to contribute to society through engagement, organisation and deployment in various related duties. A very good recommendation was made to them by an old friend, and after visiting the unit for an introductory overview and listening to Ivan Barbara, our director, passionately showing them the recently acquired fire truck, they were immediately hooked. The rest, of course, is history!

As our discussion ensues, I ask David what type of work he carries out for the EFRU. I personally know that he is an active tireless contributor to our cause, however as is true to form his response is very humble:

‘‘With the help of Sandro Camilleri, our deputy director, together with a number of member colleagues, we take care of all the vehicles and machinery, ensuring they are all serviceable and in ship-shape condition. Further to this, I am always ready to give a helping hand in organising physical training, rescue training, and team building exercises. I am a true believer of team work … at the end of the day the majority of the effort and time spent during SAR deployments is in bucket brigades.’’

Being particularly interested in the ways in which our interesting and challenging training sessions are organised, I ask David to give me more details:

‘’All training, irrespective of the nature, should be built up gradually and systematically. During the last intake for basic rescue in September, we revised the training programme to allow for such a build-up. This while also aiming to help each individual identify their strengths and weaknesses in a constructive manner, also while building a bond among all members. I have really enjoyed every minute of the course, and am looking forward to the next one.”

One of the best rewards that one gains from working with an organisation such as the EFRU is the depth and span of personality and leadership skills obtained. I agree with David when he expresses that one’s personality is sculpted according to the experiences and situations they are constantly being subjected to throughout life. He tells me that our organisation has given him numerous opportunities to enhance his personality and leadership skills thanks to challenging objectives and targets, which he is always wholeheartedly embracing and willing to embark on.In fact, he points out the two important aspects that we all have the opportunity to practise and develop further (thanks to the nature of our training and work): self and team confidence.Whether practising high angle rope rescue, working in a confined space, attacking a fire, performing a dive search, or providing first aid coverage in mass events, we all need each other’s support.

Whilst continuing our discussion on the advantages of being a leader at the EFRU, I also ask David whether there were any drawbacks at all which he has experienced so far:

‘‘One of biggest advantages of being a leader is the benefit of seeing the full picture of the project / task or mission, and overseeing it from start to end. This allows for more focus on the objective, permitting the pre-empting of any possible stumbling blocks, and taking quick and proactive decisions to ensure that all goals are successfully achieved. We have to keep in mind that our primary aim in each and every exercise is the safety of the rescuers themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes achieving all the set goals is not an easy task, especially in view of the time constraints, equipment limitations and mounting pressure from the team members, bystanders and senior OICs. Reality is not always plain sailing. Most of the times, a leader finds himself improvising, and without jeopardising safety, devising different techniques. But it is thanks to these difficulties and challenges that we all grow stronger. As the saying goes: ‘Train hard, fight easy’’’

David is also one of those people who are always very positive and find solutions for every problem that they face. In my next question, I ask him about the major challenges that he has faced at the EFRU. More importantly, I want to know how David and the team have worked to improve any challenging situations:

‘’I believe the two major challenges we face are limited funds and finite human resources. Having said that, thanks to the dedication, strategic planning, hard work and endless hours invested by both our committee and our members; we have not only managed to overcome these limitations, but also managed to expand the organisation and become one of the most reputable local organisations, whilst also earning our place as an internationally recognised rescue voluntary organisation.’’

Another aspect which I often reflect upon is time, and how we do not seem to have enough of it. Most often, so many people say they find the prospect of voluntary work too difficult due to their other commitments. David tells me how he manages to balance the different aspects of his professional work, his personal life and the EFRU:

‘’It all depends on one’s priorities in life. If a person is really dedicated, self-disciplined and willing to actively engage in voluntary work (such as the EFRU), one will fight tooth and nail to commit himself.Family support also plays a contributing factor here. I have to admit though, finding time is not that easy. Working in a voluntary organisation is a give and take scenario … in exchange for the dedicated time and effort, one will be rewarded with experiences of a lifetime, and a strong sense of belonging; as our motto reads ‘taking pride in helping others’. All these experiences make us all one big EFRU family.’’

Whilst drawing this interview to a close, I ask David whether he has any particular message which he would like to end on. Once again, his response is perfectly altruistic and sums up the tone of our entire conversation:

“I would like to conclude by thanking Miriam for her constant support, the Committee for their very hard work, Charlene for her patience during the interview, all members for their dedication in the various aspects of the organisation, and last but not least all personnel who spent long hours waiting (sometimes even deprived of toilet access) for me. As Bob Marley used to say: ‘Live for yourself and you will live in vain. Live for others and you will live again’.”

Charlene Schembri
EFRU Rescuer