I’ve been a Trustee for The Mission to Seafarers for five years now. It’s harder than I anticipated, more work than I thought, but more rewarding and more inspiring than I could ever have imagined.
I’d supported The Mission for quite a few years before becoming a Trustee and thought I knew what it did, now I know there’s so, so much more.
I’ve worked in the maritime sector for more than 15 years and have, as part of my job visited ports and ships, met and talked to seafarers – in the UK, in Europe and in the Middle East. We all rely on seafarers and yet they are out of sight out of mind. As I sit in my kitchen working though lockdown, most of what surrounds me was imported on ships, brought to me by seafarers. And lockdown is tough, I have friends and family enduring relationship breakdowns, the loss of loved ones and serious illness – even just dentistry, imagine what that feels like on a ship, where you’re working seven days a week, communications are limited and your contract lasts for many months.
Except in a global pandemic, your contract seems to be never-ending. Countries around the world have restricted international travel, and seafarers are caught in the middle with so many unable to go home, with no idea when they will be able to see their loved ones. Our chaplains, staff and volunteers offer assistance in so many ways, sometimes it’s a phonecard, a woolly hat to keep them warm, sometimes its food and water, sometimes it’s much needed emotional and spiritual support, it could be trauma counselling or vital advocacy services. Through the Mission, I have travelled to other ports and countries and met volunteers, chaplains and staff whose passion and commitment for what they do is breathtakingly inspiring.
As a Trustee, my role is to support these people, to be the governance oversight that ensures they have what they need to meet the Mission’s charitable objectives. As Trustees we need to understand the frontline challenges, we need to factor these considerations into the strategic plan, all the while ensuring the organisation remains true to its charitable purpose.
I was hugely honoured to be asked to be a Trustee and to be honest quite ignorant, I did research what was involved, there’s lots of information easily available but it is a serious responsibility. My role is not day to day operations – there’s a highly skilled team to do that – it’s to take responsibility for the charity’s direction. To be the oversight that checks all the time that we’re doing what we set out to do.
On a personal level, I’ve learnt so much, from the Mission’s staff and from my fellow Trustees, many of whom I would never have met if it wasn’t for my involvement with the Mission. I work in communications, other Trustees are CEOs, ship operators, senior clergy, lawyers, accountants, port executives, P&I club professionals… They are interesting, highly skilled people, the pool of experience is vast, we may approach problems differently with diverse perspectives, but we are all working to the same goal.
I would recommend being a Trustee to anyone, it’s a responsibility, a time commitment and you’re not just there to nod – but it’s so worthwhile and to be supporting the work of so many inspiring frontline staff and volunteers around the world is definitely an honour.