Speaking with her colleagues, there is a fondness in their voices when they reflect upon Jenna’s contribution to the club. To many, they see her as a daughter – or even a granddaughter. All have stories to tell about how her selfless ways, and her penchant for baking cookies for all the volunteers in the beach shelter.
We recently caught up with Jenna at Floreat SLSC, and sat down for a chat about her life growing up in South Africa, moving to Perth, and her deep affection for the “red and yellow”, and her close affinity with all the other volunteers at the club.
Q. Is there such a thing as a typical day for you? If so, can you run us through it?
A. I wouldn’t say there is a typical day as such, but there are definitely things that are like on loop. I like getting in early and setting things up for other people – so they can just come straight in and get started. I will normally do things like prep the IRB [Inflatable Rescue Boat], so the drivers are good to go. I also do odd bits here and there – prepare the vests, the walkie-talkies, the flags and such. I sweep out the garage as often as I can – but the sand just comes straight back in.
Q. Your accent gives away your heritage. What was it like moving from South Africa to Perth?
A. My family and I grew up in Johannesburg, and we rarely ever made it to the beach. When we first moved to Perth, I took to it like a duck to water. My mother is the manager of the club, so I found myself down here on the weekends, fussing about trying to help here and there. It was only time before I wanted to try my hand at surf lifesaving.
Q. What made you want to become a surf lifesaver?
A. My family and I were on holiday in Thailand, and my brother found a man unconscious in the ocean. He wasn’t breathing, and his lips had turned blue. My brother used his surf lifesaving training and was able to revive the man – and I was able to help him. Which still makes me emotional to this day. My brother – he is my hero, and I wanted to be just like him. So I signed up to become a surf lifesaver.
Q. How did you feel when you first put on your surf lifesaving uniform?
A. Wearing the uniform makes me feel like a different person. The first time I put on the red and yellow, my back straightened, and the hairs on my arm stood on end. It makes you feel about two feet taller. You feel lucky to wear something so important, that has such meaning to other people. I felt so proud.
Q. Can you tell us a little about your relationship to the other volunteers?
A. This place is like a second home to me, and the people here are like my second family. I have learnt so much from the others… There is so much information here. Bob, who has worked as surf lifesaver for over 50 years, is like a walking encyclopedia – he is like a grandfather to me. It’s just a really good group of people, who all come from different backgrounds. But we love each other’s company, and we love being here, helping others.
Q. What is running through your mind when you stare out at the ocean?
A. The ocean still frightens me… Which may sound weird out loud. I think it’s because I grew up so far from the beach. But I think it is about overcoming fears and doubts, and setting an example for others. Forcing yourself out of your comfort zone to achieve something new.
Q. How important is it for businesses like Woodside to donate to volunteer organisations like SLSWA?
A. It’s very important. If it wasn’t for companies like Woodside donating to SLSWA, we would have an extremely difficult time doing what we do. Woodside donating sunscreen and clothing allows us to do our job to the best of our abilities, without us being hurt in the process. I am out in the sun for hours at a time, and you grow weary - it really hits you hard. But you have to remains sensible, cover up, and encourage others to look after themselves as well.
Q. And what would you say to others wishing to volunteer their spare time?
A. I would say just get out there and do it. It’s such a rewarding experience helping others. And it’s not just about the work you do, it’s about the people you meet in the process. I have been very lucky to meet such a great group of people, and I am very thankful for the knowledge they have given me throughout.