Mission to Seafarers (MtS) is a Christian welfare charity serving for Seafarers of all ranks, nationalities and beliefs in 200 ports across 50 countries. Out of which five ports (Tuticorin, Madras, Mangalore, Cochin, Vishakapatinam) from South India are being supported by MtS. The chaplains in these ports have been working thus far with the families of the seafarers, providing assistance when in need.
As there is a change in chaplain in almost all the ports in CSI, in order to rejuvenate the works that were left behind from the previous chaplains, we at CSI-SEVA/MtS had a two day orientation program on the 06th and 07th of August 2019 in Chennai and Tuticorin for all the five chaplains.
On day one the chaplains had an introductory session in CSI Center, Chennai with the General Secretary of the Church of South India, Dr. D. Rathnakara Sadananda. In his remarks, he shared the struggles that the families of the seafarers’ face in the extended absence of the seafarer and also about the seafarer who spends most of his/her time in water than in land. Thereby he highlighted the importance of the chaplain in the families’ lives in all the five ports. Some of the suggestions the General Secretary shared in order to steer this project were: building a support system, survey on the number of Seafarers/Fisher folk in their work area/ports, providing counselling services for them, linking the women and children to the already existing program of SEVA. He motivated the chaplains by stating, “Your dreams, your vision can ignite in the lives of the people”. Rev Solomon Paul Director-In-Charge CSI-SEVA, shared the necessity of conscientizing the congregation with the issues faced by the seafarer & fishing communities. Mr. Praveen Daniel, Program Executive CSI-SEVA, shared about the project component and moderated the discussion with few technicalities on data collection, needs assessment, reporting, fund requests on the whole and port wise.
The chaplains on following day visited the Tuticorin MtS center to understand the structure of the Tuticorin MtS program and roles & responsibilities of the port chaplain. Rev. Isaac Franklin took the team over to different sections of the center and oriented the newly appointed chaplains on the permanent visitor pass to the vessel (ship), filling reports on the mobile app and MtS website. He also presented the different welfare schemes (Seafarers survival benefit scheme) that were provided to the seafarers and their families through various governing bodies, structures and networks such as National Union of Seafarers in India (NUSI), Seafarers' Welfare Fund Society (SWFS), ITF Seafarers, and International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN).
The chaplains had the opportunity to visit the entire vessel - ‘Gladiator’ which had Filipino seafarers of all ranks, the Captain, Second Officer – Deck department, Chief Engineer – Engine department & Chief Cook – Saloon department. The vessel had been staying in the port for seven days before it left for China with tons of copper later in the evening. The chaplains also met the NUSI of Tuticorin and learnt about the works that they undertake with seafarers’ families in terms of scholarship and emergency support. Later in the evening visited the Punakayul village which has over 2000 seafarers and Manapad village which has a mixture of Seafarers and Fishermen helped the chaplains to listen to their struggles (lack of constant opportunity, misleading agents) and understand them better. The day came to a close by visiting two of the programs of MtS Tuticorin, (i) tailoring centre and (ii) tuition centre. Both the centers see an average of 45 women and children benefitting out of the program, the interesting aspect is that, the teacher and trainer is from the Seafarer families teaching the Seafarers' families.
Praveen Daniel S