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Meet Paul Teasdale: The Man Who Got His Hands Dirty Rescuing Zimbabwe’s Cyclone Victims

PAUL Teasdale is one of those rare individuals, that has learned from a relatively young age that if you give it your all everything is possible. This week saw Paul taking his “shit ton load of rescue gear”, drive to Chimanimani and join hands with the army and other rescuers who were getting their hands dirty saving lives.

It’s a week that saw Paul and his colleagues rescue everything they could find: hopeless pregnant women, marooned frightened kids — and even a young chameleon.

“Lives are worth more than money,” Paul said last Saturday morning as media report that Zimbabweans were dying in floods in Chimanimani and Chipinge started filtering through.

For a man who has been rescuing everything from rhinos to snakes in people’s homes, Paul knows rescues like nobody’s business. And he looks always prepared and well-kitted.

He posted a picture of his rescue gear on Facebook immediately after reports of deaths flashed around the world, a clear sign that he was heading into some serious rescue mission.

“I am en route to Harare to join rescue efforts in Chimanimani….. packed with a shit ton of gear….. hopefully we will be of some use.  Will be posting updates where I can but of course this is both signal and time dependent,” he captioned the picture of gear with that message.

That was on Sunday. And true to word, he has not disappointed.

By Tuesday morning, Paul was already getting his hands dirty rescuing survivors from the floods. It was as emotional as it was encouraging.

“Today (Tuesday) has been an emotional and eye opening day.. Firstly I just want to say thank you to everyone for the kind words of encouragement and love. In times like this your words carry us forward. Signal is sketchy especially when in the disaster zone….. we are mobilising more air support and will be working flat out to rescue those that need and drop supplies where necessary. Econet Wireless has really stepped up to the plate and I am proud to be on their team. Lovemore Nyatsine is an incredible coordinator and leader.

“Our team grows in numbers tomorrow but exponentially in strength with the arrival of my Zambezi Brothers. A band of professionals that I have worked with on the river for the past few years that are more than friends….. they are my Brothers and I trust them with my life. Gentlemen ….  knowing you will be here is a huge emotional support and I know together we can move mountains…..”

You can tell from the message that it was structured by someone who was in the act, not couched somewhere luxurious or in the shade sipping on juice.

He went on to team up with colleagues as well as Air Force of Zimbabwe personnel to rescue everything they could find marooned in the remote parts of the eastern highlands: frightened pregnant women, excitable kids, to even a trapped chameleon!

Paul aboad an Air Force chopper getting some recon

By evening, he was updating everyone who follows him on social media of the day’s work:

“Good evening everyone.Today was a game changer from an organisational point of view…. We really saw more cohesion between the different organisations and volunteers and have created a proper strategy structure for executing our missions.

“Again Econet Wireless team led by Lovemore Nyatsine has taken most of the logistics and air support initiatives and helping to make things run smoothly. Medicine Sans Frontier ) Doctor without border guys and local doctors are doing an exceptional job. The air force were also amazing today and were very cooperative in our efforts.

Paul rescuing a “lost” young chameleon

Paul continued: “This morning I was really happy to have been able to facilitate the extraction of a pregnant woman. This afternoon I went on a recce mission with the air force to more remote areas where we extracted around 20 people but also gathered important intel on how bad those areas are affected as well as getting first hand knowledge of these areas. I was also really happy to have rescued a baby chameleon which amused the kids in the area to no end.

“This evening we had a strategy meeting and all the efforts are evolving from being reactive to proactive efforts. It’s all coming together.

Some of the first people rescued by Paul and his team, seen here inside an airborne chopper

“I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow now that we have evaluated the areas where my particular abilities are required. Today has been a taxing day physically … so far I have only had 1 banana and 500ml of water but so fulfilling to be making a difference. My day isn’t over …. the rafting boys have had a small breakdown so we are waiting for them and will be briefing them later. Late nights and early mornings but all worth it.

“Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent when we put aside our family and cultural conditioning,” Paul says.

To him “talent” is just a bi-product.

The kids are loving it!

‘There are no extraordinary people …. just ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances. Sometimes the best first aid is to bring a smile and hope. Kids are incredible, resilient and most of all Present. We have been tasked to guide them but we must also be humble enough to know that we have much to learn from them too,” Paul says.

By last night, Paul was still not showing signs of exhaustion despite a week that would break anyone with both exhaustion and mental trauma from seeing dead bodies and horror all week.

He updated: “Good evening all. Today was another interesting day on the ground. Everyone has worked hard and done amazing work from every single aspect.

“Critical evacuations and remote rescues seem to be few now and we have placed health care professionals to deal with the injuries in the communities….. we will focus efforts on keeping them supplied and lifting out those that need to be but high angle rescue and swiftwater rescue ops are no longer required from what I can see.

“Now its more about supply drops and trying to ‘re establish access roads. There is an insane amount of logistics and coordination happening and I commend all those that have been behind the scenes supporting and enabling the work to be done. Without these people we could not do what we do. They are the real Hero’s.

“I want to give a special shout out to the doctors that are working round the clock in some pretty extreme conditions. They are brave and dedicated and an inspiration to the rest of us.

Aren’t they happy now? Rescue efforts are winding down and everyone, even the kids, can only look back with gratitude to men and women like Paul and his colleagues who put in their all to save lives — while risking theirs.

Paul grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and attended Carmel Primary School.

His high school years were spent at Christain Brothers College and it was here that he first realised that he didn’t quite fit the mould.

At the age of 17 he left school with no qualifications and moved to Switzerland to realise his dreams of becoming a snowboarding instructor. After 1 season he moved to London where he did odd jobs for a year before returning to Zimbabwe.

At the age of 18, having realised it is tough in the real world, Paul started working for the family Cosmetic Manufacturing Business. Whilst working there he finished his high school studies and went on to do a Diploma in Cosmetic Science. He is now the Managing Director of Teasdale Laboratories and is responsible for the development and refinement of most of the cosmetic formulations that are used there to date.

Paul is a “Science Geek” at heart. His interests lie greatly in sustainable living and in trying to find ways to help humans live more responsibly on our planet. This has led him to creating some of the business ventures that he is currently involved in.

From a health and fitness point of view, Paul firmly believes in clean living and keeping fit. He is an avid climber, whitewater kayaker, paraglider, hiker, Mountain Biker and all round adventure sports enthusiast.

As someone commented on his social media page: “In real life heroes don’t wear caps, they are people like Paul Teasdale.”

Here is one man who did not take an armchair and start to criticize without putting in some shift. No, he took his gear, time, resources and even risked his life to get others saved.

He helped not because it was his job or that he could get paid, but because, as he said earlier on in the week: “Lives are worth more than money.”

As Paul said in one of his posts whilst winding down the rescue missions in the eastern highlands: “The battle is by no means over but the worst of it seems to have passed and now we have to pull together to rebuild.”

You cannot disagree with that, surely.

— ZOOMZimbabwe

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