As chaplain for the Hull and Immingham ports, Jake delivered an in-depth presentation on the history and work of the Mission to Seafarers, an organisation for whom he has worked for several years.
This little known welfare charity serving merchant crews has its roots in the work of John Ashley, an Anglican priest, who in 1835, recognised that the loneliness and spiritual needs of seafarers were not being catered for. His offer to help to meet the practical and mental health issues of the seafarers was based on Christian principles and so inspired others, that eventually The Missions to Seamen (as it was known then) was established. With the rapidly expanding British maritime industry, The Mission recognised that when ships docked at quaysides, the facilities were very limited so, over the years, it has opened land-based centres where seafarers can access light refreshments, cheap accommodation in which they can rest and relax and a chapel.
In 2000, the charity changed its name to The Mission to Seafarers and now operates over 250 centres in the world caring for over 1.5 million seafarers of all ranks, nationalities, gender and beliefs. Not only has it moved with the times and is open day and night for 365 days a year, but it has also grown to become one of the largest port-based welfare operators in the world where seafarers can receive counselling, mediation, communications and transport services.
It is now recognised that those who work at sea can be affected by a number of problems including money worries, mental health issues and loneliness to name but a few, and this is where Jake, in his capacity as a chaplain can make such a difference. When a ship docks at a port, it is subject to numerous visits by ‘officials’ however, when Jake boards a ship it is as an unofficial visitor. It is easy to forget that the crew have often been at sea for many months with little or no contact with the outside world or their loved ones so, once on board, Jake is someone the crew can chat to in complete confidence; he can lend an ear or a helping hand as well as give the pastoral, spiritual and emotional support they may require.
Throughout its long and distinguished history, the role of The Mission to Seafarers has adapted and changed. Nowadays they are able to give free advice regarding employment issues or personal problems, connect the seafarers to other organisations or, speak on their behalf as well as offer help in maritime emergencies. Sadly today though, there is also an ever-increasing modern-day threat to the shipping industry of piracy, shipwreck and abandonment however, The Mission is now able to step in to get food, power etc on board and even help negotiate a solution.
The Mission to Seafarers was set up to cater for the welfare and pastoral care of merchant crews however, its continued success is very dependent not only on the work undertaken by its chaplains, but also by its many dedicated volunteers. None of this would be possible though without financial donations and fundraising events which sustain and pay for the practical support The Mission offers. The need for a welfare safety net for those who work at sea has never been greater as 80% of seafarers now come from the developing world; this has encouraged exploitation and abuses ranging from non-payment of wages to dangerous working conditions so the need for chaplains and volunteers to do the unsung work of maritime welfare has never been more necessary.
PS …The supply of knitted hats, gloves and scarves for seafarers around the world is a long held tradition with MtS so any donations are always gratefully received. They are taken on board by chaplains when ship-visiting and the seafarers are always very grateful.