Community and Ports Fundraising Manager, Johnny Dowling on his recent trip to Dunkerque

25th February 2020

I recently visited Dunkerque where Philip, our port chaplain showed me how the extensive building works are progressing and talked about future plans – we are all looking forward to the opening in May. We then visited a ferry that had been in lay-up for quite some time and chatted to the crew to check that the Wi-Fi that has been set up for them still worked, and also to see if we could be of assistance. They had only a skeleton crew, which allows for just two crew members to be onshore at any one time which, as you can imagine, can take its toll. There had been a fire on board last year, and the spoke of how lucky they had been that thanks to the quick actions of the crew, no one was injured.

My last evening was in the seafarers’ centre where I spent some very enjoyable downtime with a Filipino crew who were in port. It was a great opportunity for me to spend informal time with the people who use our centres and to get honest one to one feedback on what we do that works for them. We discuss a worldwide seafarers talent competition and the idea for us to have airport-style massage chairs in our centres to help the crews with back pain etc.

Part way through the evening, I had a video call from my children to say goodnight and to ask when I would ‘finally’ be home after my five days away. After the call one of the guys mentioned that he has not seen his four children for six months, I felt both embarrassed and humbled. Here I was, missing my young children and happily telling them that I would see them tomorrow when this seafarer still had another three months on his contract. We had some more drinks and sang some more songs before we headed our separate ways, promising to meet up at another port in the future.

I hope you will enjoy the below video of the Filipino seafarers I met while at the centre, as they sing “You’ve got a friend”.

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