“There is no alternative but to rescue”: Captain Benedikt Funke talks about his time on the sea rescue vessel “Iuventa”


“I will help you save.” The slogan of the organization “Jugend Rettet” is written in capital letters on the back of the t-shirt that Benedikt Funke is wearing: “Of course, before a new mission, more thoughts than usual go through my head. all your arguments again “Why do all this?” He is about to embark on his second deployment to the Mediterranean, and the experiences of the first mission have shaped him: “Before my first deployment, I was more relaxed. After all the experiences, now you have one or two fears. Can you now let’s look at the situation and we evaluate it more realistically.”

“Jugend Rettet”: this is how young people take the initiative

The summer mission was Benedikt Funke’s first as captain. After studying nautical science in Bremen, he worked for an insurance company in Munich and before that sailed all over the world – on container ships, on the MS Hanseatic or as first officer on the Aida. He wants to do more with his life, to use his nautical skills for purposes other than “driving a cruise ship bus” between the Canary Islands. The main cause is the growing number of accidents in the Mediterranean, with thousands of people drowning in 2015. Funke wants action; after all, you can only change the world by doing something yourself. During his research he came across the young Berlin start-up “Jugend Rettet”, founded by Jakob Schön and Lena Bauer. Benedikt Funke was involved from the beginning and supported the transfer of the ship. When Jakob Schön asks him if he would like to be the captain of the first mission, he doesn’t hesitate. He leaves his secure job and presents the fait accompli to friends and family.

Now, just before leaving for a second time on a mission, Funke is more thoughtful than before. “Questions like ‘Are you part of the trafficking network or perhaps even the reason why these people undertake this dangerous journey?’ keep me busy.” It is the drastic experiences at sea and the proximity to death that changed his thoughts. But: “There is no alternative but to save!”

In just six summer weeks, the crew of the “Iuventa” saved almost 2,000 people, while Benedikt Funke was on duty as captain. What moved him most were the first dead they had to save, and what struck him most was how the refugees gratefully applauded their rescuers. “You share their euphoria at this moment, but at the same time you know that most of them are far from reaching their destination or will probably have to return home in a few months. For a very few, Europe can offer what they expect from it…”

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