Head in the clouds, Hands to the rescue! An interview with Joseph Bonnici

March 28, 2014 in Member Interviews

In a single stretch of virtual breath, via email, Joseph complains about a few graying hairs, yet he smiles while admitting that he’s a couple of weeks shy of his 32nd birthday, and as many months past his 3rd anniversary as an EFRU member. The truth is that it’s easy to imagine Joe throwing you his timid smile while whispering some witty comment about anything you might be discussing with him – usually leaving you to your spat-out coffee, or laughing your head off like a loon, as he walks away with a straight face.

Joe is one of the most active members of the Unit and has recently been appointed committee member. Anyone who gets familiar with the EFRU can note that Joe’s role in the organisation is quite significant, yet when I ask him whether he was ever involved with other rescue organizations prior to EFRU he replies:

‘No, the EFRU is the first rescue organisation I have been in; I was never even part of scouts. Before joining the EFRU I was somewhat intrigued by fire fighting and rope rescue but it was only when I came across the EFRU’s website that I took the plunge.’

And a mighty plunge, that was! The way I see it, three years ago Joe made a deliberate and significant upgrade to his lifestyle, which many out there would never have made at his age.

Like every other member of the EFRU, however, Joe’s contribution to the Unit is entirely voluntary. This is why the following question to my comrade is: ‘can you tell me something about your full-time career?’

‘Oh! You mean the time I spend with my head in the clouds?’

Yes. Joe is also a pilot. But even that is not exactly what he does for a living!

‘I’m lucky to have started a career in aviation – my childhood dream. Only recently I started working on the next challenge in my career. I work in the Operations Control Centre of an international, private aviation company. In a nutshell, I’m part of a team of people who ensure that pilots have all the necessary preparations for their flights to run smoothly. And then, because I really can’t get enough of planes, I occasionally fly small aircraft and enjoy the Maltese Islands from a few thousand feet above!’

Of course, this is a rather simplified description, as every flight demands its own set of preparations which are way too complex to delve into, here. Joe mercifully spares us the details. As for the love of planes, however, I can solemnly vouch for this myself, as I have flown with him a few times and, apart from revealing that he is an excellent pilot, these flights led me to confirm where his heart lies.

While keeping his heart to flying, Joe likes to go hands-on in anything related to the EFRU. I must point out that he is not just any other EFRU member. As the newest member of the committee, he is currently in charge of Networking and EU-funds procurement, aside from being a regular contributor to the PR section. He also assists in Basic Rescue Training for the newer members alongside another colleague of his. That already sounds like a lot, and I haven’t yet mentioned his constant commitment to the EFRU’s external first aid, rescue and fire-fighting duties, the other work he does for the University of Malta’s radio station, and most importantly, his personal life as a married family man. How on Earth does he manage, and how does his family respond or rather, adapt, to his insanely busy lifestyle?

‘I think it’s a matter of compromise. There are other things I’d probably be doing instead, if I wasn’t part of the EFRU. However, I try to choose to do what I like most and where I feel I can give a positive contribution. Then there are certain EFRU members that continuously inspire and motivate me to do my best for the organisation. I’m pleased to say that the EFRU thrives on the collective effort of each one of its members. Of course, family life is certainly affected by the commitment that the EFRU entails. In the end it’s about trying to find a balance (although this is easier said than done!). Thankfully, my wife does understand that the EFRU is important for me.’

This is where I cannot but take the opportunity to thank the families of each and every member of the EFRU for the constant support that they offer and, for bearing with the long hours of absence from home which the Unit demands of its dedicated members. Joe is one such member and, in being so, Joe spares more than enough time dealing with a spectrum of issues related to the EFRU.

If Joe were to be given the opportunity to change anything about the Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit, what would he change?

The first reaction to this question would be to answer something along the lines of “Well I’d make the EFRU rich so that we may grow in terms of equipment and people and therefore, improve capabilities”. However, I’d rather think this question refers to the EFRU’s core values, which I don’t want to change. After all these values have shaped the EFRU into what it has become today – my fellow members’ relentless enthusiasm tells me I’m right in this regard.’

Touché, my friend; no one could have put it better. I guess I need not encourage you to continue your valuable work within the Unit, but maybe I can, on behalf of everyone else, thank you for your constant contribution in making the EFRU a reliable rescue team and a proud family of 40. May future recruits and prospective members follow in your footsteps!

Iona Muscat
EFRU Rescuer