The Sailors’ Society has been transforming the lives of seafarers and their families for almost 200 years, providing welfare for the world’s 1.5million merchant seafarers.
Merchant seafarers do one of the toughest jobs imaginable – often away from home for nine to 12 months at a time, they work under the strain of long days, hard manual labour, and the threat of piracy, abandonment and rough weather.
When they do reach port, the turnaround times are often short, less than 24 hours, and this brief window is the only chance they have of contacting their families and loved ones.
With 93 chaplains and ship visitors in 22 countries, the Sailors’ Society’s reach is worldwide.
And the support it offers in Scotland is as vibrant as ever.
The Invergordon Seafarers’ Centre is a hub of activity – a 40-strong crew of dedicated volunteers, headed up by professional ship visitor Drew Anderson, look after the needs of hundreds of seafarers that pass through its doors every week.
In 2013 35,000 seafarers visited the port, with around 6,000 of them visiting the centre, benefiting from the wi-fi, tea, coffee and conversation on offer.
Men and women desperate to contact their wives, husbands, parents and children, crowd in to use the computer terminals that will give them a link to their homes.
For seafarers unused to colder climes, woolly hats are distributed.
This homespun headwear is knitted by an army of wonderful supporters drawn from communities all over the country.
Drew and his team keep the 12-seater minibus running back and forth between the port and the town, connecting seafarers with the services they greatly need – local shops, chemists and doctors.
Speaking of his work, Drew said: “We run a haven where seafarers can relax and unwind away from shipboard life.
“A few kind words over a cup of coffee or the gift of a Bible can make a big difference to a lonely seafarer.”
But Invergordon isn’t where Sailors’ Society’s Scottish operations end.
With port chaplains also covering the ports of Leith, Montrose, Dundee and Perth, the Society is well placed to help seafarers arriving on Scottish shores, whatever need they face.
The charity also oversees the Leith Aged Mariners Fund, a crisis fund to relieve poverty and distress in ex-seafarers who are no longer able to go to sea, and the Sir Gabriel Woods Mariners’ Home, a place of rest and respite for those in need.
In May, Peter Donald, the Society’s port chaplain for Dundee and Montrose, met Reneire.
The young man told Peter that his home in the Philippines had been destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan, and he worried for his wife and daughter.
Peter, working with the Society’s port chaplain in the Philippines, contacted the programme team, and an emergency grant was made for the repair of the building.
When Reneire returned home, he wrote to Peter: “We will never forget.”
Sailors’ Society wants to keep supporting seafarers like Reneire and those welcomed at Invergordon well into the future.
Help the society to do work that will never be forgotten. Leave a legacy today.
Contact: www.sailors-society.org or 023 8051 5950.