The following is a Christian Work Project sponsored in part by a grant from the Boston Baptist Social Union.
In our 181st year, Seafarer's friend serves the spiritual and practical needs of seafarers coming to our New England ports. Our mission is to come alongside the maritime community with friendship faith,and hospitality. Ninety-five percent of all commodities this nation uses daily arrive in vessels traveling from all over the world and guided by merchant mariners. Often, ships are in poor repair, most are served by a multi-national crew resulting in major discrimination and cultural issues, and all operate in an environment in which there are few laws regulating treatment of seafarers. The population onboard vessels is predominantly of third world'' origin and work for low wages under difficult and open dangerous conditions. Most are at sea for four to twelve months at a time and experience extreme loneliness and stress as a result. Chaplains of Seafarer's Friend come alongside seafarers and show the love of Christ by bringing phones aboard, sometimes the only means of calling home available to crew. In addition caring conversation, patient counsel, and a pastoral ear help ease stress and loneliness as well as advocate for seafarers in a variety of difficult situations. The Seafarer's Friend visitor center in Chelsea offers space for mariners to read, relax, communicate with family (by phone, email, or web-cam), and obtain clothing and basic necessities donated by churches and people from many faith communities who support the mission. When in port Seafarer's Friend is often the only face of humanity and support these migrant workers of the sea come to know and on which they can depend for transport to local stores for supplies, compassionate conversation. and care.
While modern ships are larger than their predecessors the crew size is smaller than in the past, resulting in fewer breaks from work in this 24 hour Work environment. A chance to get off the ships visit our center or a mall, and speak with people other than crew mates or security personnel is a blessing. Yet close to 20% of the crew cannot leave the ship due to a lack of visa or restrictions imposed by a terminal, thus making ship visits even more essential. In addition, changing security regulations In the US implemented this past October now makes our presence more important as crew are unable to come ashore without escorts through terminals is required. Some terminals will not supply security escort for seafarers to leave the ship resulting in increased dependency on Seafarer's Friend for both the seafarer and the terminal for needed shore access or visits aboard the ships.
Chaplains are the most important resource in this ministry with the budget for personnel, phones, and transport, all dedicated to the support of seafarers, comprising about 60% of funds needed. At a time when demands on these dedicated men and women serving seafarers are increasing,and the hours spent serving seafarers is, of necessity, increasing, the current economic climate presents a difficult challenge as Seafarer's Friend seeks to maintain current levels of personnel and service to seafarers. This grant request is to ensure for another year delivery of the care and love on which seafarers have come to depend. BBSU has been a valuable partner and the hope of Seafarer's
Friend is to continue to build that partnership in a variety of ways in the future. The grant will support a portion of the cost of providing a person to visit ships while they are in port, ensuring that at least one visit is made to every ship, and each visitor to the port sees a caring and friendly face during their brief stay. This amount is approximately 20% of the total cost of personnel caring for crew in the Port of Boston. The other funds are raised from donations of many congregations and businesses.