The Southern Cross : June 2012
June 2012 Page 17 www.thesoutherncross.org.au news | The Southern Cross The life of a modern seafarer can be lonely and dangerous. They can spend up to a year away from their families, often working in harsh conditions. Port stops may be only for a few hours, although some bulk carriers are often in port for several days. Annie O'Neill spent an evening at the Stella Maris Centre in Taperoo where the Apostleship of the Sea provides a temporary home for seafarers from ships visiting Outer Harbor. The Apostleship of the Sea is a global organisation with centres in most major ports throughout the world. It is the Catholic Church's missionary work to seafarers whether they are on merchant, passenger, war or fishing vessels. The purpose of the Apostleship of the Sea is to care for the spiritual, social and material welfare of all seafarers regardless of colour, race or creed. The SA chapter draws their volunteers from the Catholic community and Peter Moore, the Centre Director, says that anyone can take part in meeting seafarers, the only prerequisites being the ability to talk and listen. "Quite often the best value you can provide is just to sit down with a sailor and pass the time of day," he said. The centre provides a service to more than 150 sailors each month on a wide range of vessels, from car carriers, container ships, grain ships, iron ore bulk ships and a few general cargo vessels, which berth at the Outer Harbour. The number has increased since a grain berth opened in 2009, although Peter likes to think it is also because of the hospitality the centre provides, with a number of sailors 'repeat' visitors who encourage other crew to come ashore to enjoy the friendly and welcome attitude of the Adelaide team. Peter and his wife Claire got involved with the organisation because they felt it was a 'good fit' for them. The local parishes of Le Fevre and Henley, who are generous supporters of their work, supply gifts at Christmas. "We see ourselves as part of parish life," Peter said. There are 24 volunteers working for the centre with three of these acting as regular ship visitors. Their role is to go on board to promote the services of the centre and talk with the seafarers who are unable to leave the ship at the port. They have a 12-seater bus to travel to the ships, collect the seafarers, and bring them back to the centre. "They come here, as it is somewhere to get out and get contact with their families. As we are going to them initially, that is what makes a connection. A little network in the community, everyone sees old friends and people on a regular basis," Peter said. The visiting seafarer's basic needs include shopping, linking up with their families via Skype or by phone or just chatting. The volunteers can also exchange the US currency that the sailors carry in order for them to buy supplies while they are in port. "As soon as they come in, they sign the book on the table. They put down the ship's name and their country of origin and sign it. This helps us when we have to come up with statistics," Peter said. While most of their visitors are men, some of whom are accompanied by their wives and children, occasionally there are female officers on board as well. Families appreciate being able to come ashore and enjoy the hospitality of the centre. Peter and his volunteers make sure they always have a decent box of toys available for the children and for many of the regular seafarers it has become a 'home away from home.' Scott Sampson is another volunteer who became involved via the Le Fevre parish and helps wherever he can with IT and any ad hoc queries. "I get the satisfaction of being able to see men connect with their families. We are here to help them out with whatever they need," he said. The seafarers are mainly Filipino, Indian, Chinese, Sri Lankan, or Indonesian with some of the engineers hailing from the Ukraine. In 2010, more than 2000 mariners died in accidents worldwide. Many more were injured and there is always the constant threat of piracy. Peter Moore sees this as a global problem that does not seem to have any easy answers. Most of seafarers have a little English and communication is usually easy. However, sometimes communication can break down with comical results. Recently on a visit to a ship, the ship's captain asked a volunteer if he could 'visit warship'. Not possible answered the volunteer, as they would need special security clearance. 'No,' continued the Korean Captain, 'Warship! Warship!' he said putting his hands together in prayer! Once the confusion had cleared, the volunteers were able to open the Church beside the centre for the Captain and his crew. The centre is always looking for new volunteers. They need a minimum of two people per shift who can operate the centre. Peter and his team are keen for anyone interested to come down and have a look at the work they do. The Stella Maris Centre will take part in Sea Sunday celebrations on July 8. Volunteers will be visiting congregations to talk about their work and celebrate the contribution seafarers make. For further information on volunteering, contact Peter on 8449 9586. Home away from home SHORE THING: Peter More (left), Scott Sampson (third from right) and Claire Moore with visiting seafarers. Real angels Angel for a Day -- Hutt St Centre's winter fundraising campaign -- was launched by the Centre's Chief Executive Officer Ian Cox last month. "The decision to take on the responsibility of being an Angel for a Day means that more than 200 people who are homeless and vulnerable can sit down at a table in our dining room, and enjoy breakfast and lunch in a warm and welcoming place," Mr Cox said. "As an Angel, you can ensure that each of these people will be welcomed and greeted when they arrive and that someone will smile at them that day. As an Angel, you can help those people feel that someone cares about them. As an Angel, you give much more than a plate of food. "We will prepare and serve 55,000 meals at Hutt St Centre this year. Real Angels make this happen." Guests were invited to become 'Angels' by pledging a donation of $350 to the Hutt St Centre to provide breakfast and lunch for 200 people who are homeless. For more information on becoming an Angel for a Day -- call Hutt Street on 8418 2500 or on-line through their website www.huttstcentre.org.au CALLING ALL ANGELS: Sports stars Rachel Sporn (left) and Gillian Rolton (right) with media personality Bruce McAvaney and Hutt St Centre CEO Ian Cox at the launch of Angels for a Day.