When people consider volunteering they immediately think of charity shops, soup kitchens and the other very visible opportunities on offer. Yet there is a multitude of other ways that are perhaps not seen by the public but just as vital. Being a ship visitor is one of them. The Apostleship of the Sea works in all the main ports in Britain, to serve seafarers from across the world, both practically and spiritually. Ship visitors play a vital role in helping seafarers who are often miles away from their homes to feel welcome and supported here. Simple gestures such as going on board vessels to visit seafarers, approaching them as friends and not just offering practical help but also listening to their concerns can make an enormous difference. Often the help seafarers want is access to contact their family, through phone cards or Skype, providing news from their home country or arranging mass or liturgy onboard. By volunteering you are helping to reach out to people who live in a mostly invisible and ignored world. Even though 90% of our commerce is brought to the UK via the sea not many of us think of the lives of the people bringing it. It is not uncommon for seafarers to be away from home for 8 or even 12 months, so to see a friendly face is definitely welcome! So take up Pope Francis’ call to “confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and take practical steps to alleviate it.”
As one volunteer ship visitor said: “Being a ship visitor is rewarding, furthermore, anyone who has a few hours a week and is sociable can do it. I feel we volunteers I offer the seafarers a friend in port, someone to takes an interest in their lives, look at photos of the family, provide copies of news from their home country or just show them how to use Skype. Sometimes I help our Chaplain with Mass on board or deliver Christmas presents or toiletries to a ship. I have been amazed that this small gift of my time is so appreciated by those I meet.”
A port chaplain said: “Volunteering has transformed and influenced my own life. Many years ago I became a volunteer Ship Visitor with the Apostleship of the Sea, after a presentation at my local parish given by a Port Chaplain…Now I am a Port Chaplain with my own team of dedicated ship Visitors. Each from a different background. Some have had connections to the sea, others from different backgrounds, but all bringing their own particular skills and expertise to their role.
My volunteers “Take it up” every time they put a foot on the gangway and step on board a ship. They bring the seafarers many things, information, practical help but more importantly they bring themselves, their presence on board..a hand of friendship and a listening ear for men, often separated for many months from their loved ones. They bring the love of God and love of their neighbour. It’s the gospel in action..small acts of kindness that can make a difference to someone’s life.”
So whether you live in Hartlepool, Harwich, Hull or Hunterston (or pretty much anywhere else) you can get involved.
Hectic life? Ships come into port at all hours, everyday of the year, so the hours you give a week do not have to be the same all the time allowing you the flexibility you might need.
What are you waiting for? Call 020 7588 8285 or email email@example.com