SEATTLE SEAFARERS CENTER NEWSLETTER
At the beginning of August, we had the privilege of hosting the NAMMA (North American Maritime Ministry Association) annual conference in Seattle. We welcomed close to 100 representatives of seafarers welfare organizations across the continent to our Center and to the University of Washington, and discussed together how we can be ready for the future of seafarers’ welfare. It is always great to connect with colleagues near and far, and to learn from each others’ experiences caring for seafarers. We also had a blast on a special harbor tour on Seattle’s Tall Ship!
Erin Burnett reflects on her time this summer at our seafarers center
Hi, I’m Erin, and I am a Theology postgraduate student from Northern Ireland.
This summer I had the privilege of spending three weeks in Seattle, during which I served with the Seattle Seafarers Center and attended the NAMMA conference at the University of Washington.
Alongside Julia, Rich, Joey and Siri I visited cargo ships and spoke to seafarers from around the world. A highlight was getting a guided tour of an engine room – it gave me a new appreciation of how hard seafarers work in a very noisy and hot environment!
Another important aspect of the port ministry in Seattle is the shuttle service for crew members who work on cruise ships. The shuttle takes them to the Space Needle and Downtown for a small donation, and it’s a great opportunity to speak to people doing all sorts of jobs on board, from entertainment to navigation and everything in between. Unlike cargo ships, which tend to have less than 15 people on board, cruise ships can have over 1,000 crew members. Most crew work seven days a week, so it is vital they get a few hours to recharge when in port.
The NAMMA conference was a fantastic opportunity to connect with people from seafarers’ centers across North America. I spoke about my research on the role of women in maritime chaplaincy, exploring the unique advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in a male dominated field. When women engage in pastoral ministry with seafarers, they bring a sense of normalcy to the isolated world of the ship.
This is especially important for the female seafarers who make up only 2% of the maritime workforce; a female ship visitor may be the only woman she has spoken to in months, and she may feel more comfortable opening up to them about gender-related challenges at work. Having a balance of men and women in seafarers’ ministry will enhance the quality of care we can offer to seafarers.
Seattle Seafarers Center is a great example of how a small yet diverse team can work together to provide for the emotional, spiritual and practical needs of seafarers. One seafarer told me “the Seattle Seafarers’ Center are the heroes of Seattle”, and I definitely agree with him.
It’s been a great experience and I hope to be back!
Year-Round Free Items for Seafarers
Many of you are familiar with our annual holiday Ditty Bag Program - from Thanksgiving through January each year, we bring gift bags full of toiletries and hand-knit hats to every crew we visit.
Seafarers are still in need of toiletries and other personal necessities throughout the year. This Spring, we set up a shelf in our Center full of free items: shampoo, shaving cream, hats, sweatshirts, candy, etc. And it has only grown! We started off the shelf with leftover toiletries from last winter’s ditty bag season, and we have expanded our stock thanks to gift cards donated by parish Giving Tree programs, and many donations of hand-made hats and local sports teams apparel. In order to better support female seafarers, we have also started a collection of free sanitary products, which can be difficult for women to obtain and replenish on long contracts at sea.
Our “free stuff” shelf has become popular among crews who frequent Seattle. Before taking a trip to the mall, many seafarers ask to stop by our Center to use our Wifi and to stock up on toiletries and snacks. Some will grab items for a buddy back on the ship who can’t get off duty to come ashore. Last month, three crewmembers from the Cma Cgm Medea were excited to find some “Bruno Mars” style hats and were eager to pose for a picture. Just last week, I watched an engineer from the Maersk Chachai facetime a new female cadet on board his ship to show her the shelf and ask what she needed.
While we will continue to run our annual Ditty Bag Program around the holiday season, we are glad to also be able to provide necessities for seafarers throughout the year!
Save the Date - Ditty Bag Stuffing Day 2023!
Once again, we will host our annual Ditty Bag Stuffing Day on the Saturday before Thanksgiving in West Seattle. Join us to stuff ditty bags, share stories about seafarers ministry, and bless the bags to be given away.
When: Saturday, November 18, 10am-12pm
Where: St. John the Baptist Church, 3050 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA
In the meantime, we are starting to collect donations of full-size toiletries, hand-knit hats, and hand-sewn ditty bags! Find more information on our website (https://www.mts-seattle.org/ditty-bags) and contact us at email@example.com to arrange a drop-off or pick-up of donations.
Are you curious what it’s like to board a 300 meter-long container ship? Would you like to meet people from all over the world? Do you have a passion for serving marginalized communities?
We are always seeking more volunteers to help us serve seafarers in Puget Sound! Here are some ways you can get involved:
Ship Visiting - We try to visit every ship that comes into Seattle, to welcome the crew and provide resources.
Driving for Merchant Ships - Flexible to your schedule! Seafarers request rides at all times throughout the day and weekend.
Driving for Cruise Ships - Daily driving shifts transporting crew from Pier 91 to downtown, May through October.
In-Kind Donations - We accept toiletries, snacks, knit hats, and warm clothes to donate to seafarers throughout the year. You can even organize a donation-drive or a gift bag stuffing event with your workplace or community!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.