By day Carol Van Tonder is the head of education, hairdressing and beauty at Coastal FET College. By night she is a crime fighter & a real South African inspiration.
Van Tonder works as a police reservists at the Durban North police station where you can find her most days after 3pm until late at night.
As a trained reservist she can perform the duties of a fully fledged officer – but without pay.
Van Tonder also started the Durban North Umhlanga Crisis Centre at the police station after seeing a need for emotional support for crime victims. She was a Lifeline counsellor for nine years before opening the centre in 2008. The centre is staffed by volunteers.
“It’s been fantastic to see the growth and how the community and the SAPS have welcomed our involvement with open arms. They have made it easy for us to assist where we can. I remember walking through a supermarket about two years after I started the Crisis Team, and being stopped by a woman. She looked at me and said ‘I just want to thank you for saving my life.”
In 2008 the NPO, consisted of 10 people, and had about five cases a month. Now the team has grown to 25 people with more than 30 cases per month.
“It’s been fantastic to see the growth and how the community and the SAPS have welcomed our involvement with open arms. They have made it easy for us to assist where we can. I remember walking through a supermarket about two years after I started the Crisis Team, and being stopped by a woman. She looked at me and said ‘I just want to thank you for saving my life.’
“The emotion of that situation and hearing those words confirmed what our aim was when we started. Our long term vision is to be always there for the community. Nobody should feel like there’s no one to help them through traumatic situations,” van Tonder said.
While most people would struggle with being on call 24 hours a day, while holding down a full time job, van Tonder takes it all in her stride, but insisted the support from her family, friends, crisis team members, and the community kept her going.
“My family and friends have always supported me from the beginning. Even my sons, helped out and were 100 per cent behind me all the way. One of them, Matt, even joined the team for a short while,” she enthused.
Her role as a police reservist has also seen her act in another capacity as a community hero.
“What prompted me to become a reservist was I was counselling a rape victim and we had to wait for the police officer to take her to the district surgeon before going any further. I decided instead of waiting for that to happen, I could assist the victim in my capacity as a counsellor and police officer. Everytime I put on the police uniform, I wear it with pride, and love the police camaraderie
“I’ve even arrested a drunk driver with a dress on. At the time he seemed quite surprised. For me helping and being there for the community is all important. It’s extremely rewarding knowing you can make a difference to someone else’s life.”
Being on call 24 hours a day while holding down a full time job takes it toll Van Tonder said, and thanks her family for their support.