Let’s give these heroic men and women the Christmas the derserve. Seafarers are struggling as we speak!
This pandemic has made life hard and very different for all of us. Few have had as difficult a time as seafarers and their families. Throughout the crisis crews have kept working, maintaining global supply lines, including vital food and medical supplies. They have done so against an acutely challenging background. With many governments making crew change impossible, hundreds of thousands have been working well beyond the end of their contracts. Some have now been on board up to 17 months without a break. Uncertainty, anxiety and exhaustion are making many lives incredibly stressful. Those stresses have been enhanced by severe limitations on shore leave, preventing access to much needed opportunities for communication with family and simple relaxation.
“There is no tomorrow and without tomorrow there is no hope!” This is what one seafarer told us. Many would echo it.
The simple fact of not knowing when you will see your family again can be extraordinarily debilitating. For a few, the mental health impact has become so severe that they have been unable to continue with their normal work. In extreme cases this can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. Never has the work of The Mission to Seafarers been more needed. Our teams across the world have continued their transformational work, despite sometimes almost impossible local circumstances. We have maintained ship visitation, delivered personal supplies and medicines, pioneered new digital support networks and supported seafarers who have found themselves trapped in foreign ports. As Secretary General I can report with great pride on the difference we have been able to make as we have tried to ensure a more “hopeful tomorrow” in so many practical ways.
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What about the families?
This Christmas we want to draw your attention to one special need. For all the seafarers trapped on their ships, many others have been unable to access their new contracts or have been made redundant, including so many from cruise ships. This is a hidden problem but one creating very significant financial hardship for so many families, with all its related anxieties. For our Family Support Networks in the Philippines and in India, this has been a very busy time.
In April 2020, Isaac Franklin, one of our Chaplains in India, was contacted by the maritime communities in Tuticorin, South India. The pandemic had meant a sudden loss of work and earnings for many local seafaring families. Lockdown and food supplies were causing further issues. The Mission to Seafarers was able to swiftly obtain special permission from the Government of India, to bring immediate aid. With your support and generosity, we reached initially over 100 needy families, providing them with food, toiletries and essential medical supplies. Since then that work has grown, with over 800 families currently in receipt of emergency support. With no sign of an end to the ravages of the virus, need levels continue to be very high and our support will be needed for many months yet. This is the focus of our Christmas appeal.
As a very unusual Christmas approaches, we seek your urgent help in these unprecedented circumstances. Surely your generosity is the very best way of applauding and acknowledging these amazing men and women. With your support our teams will continue to be angels in disguise all over the world.
So wrote one seafarer from an airport on his way home
“I think I just saw an angel!”
He was reflecting on the support of one of our chaplains who had helped arrange his repatriation. Indeed, he went on to reflect on the many Mission to Seafarers “angels” he had met around the world. To quote from him: “All these kindnesses, are done voluntarily. Not expecting things in return. And yet they will pour out their best efforts to help. For us.”
Thank you in advance for giving so generously to help us support these brave men, women and their family.
Wishing you all a Happy Christmas.
The Revd. Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General