A riverside haven for visiting mariners from all over the world has been giving a helping hand this Christmas by the Port of London Authority (PLA).
Every year, Tilbury Seafarers’ Centre volunteers wrap up more than 1,500 parcels for crew members whose ships are calling at the Port of London over the festive period. Many of the visiting seamen have not seen loved ones for months and are really happy to accept gifts at a time of year when they’re most missing home.
The parcels are made up of donations, including toiletries, treats, hats and scarves, and this year, the PLA did its part by supplying the charity with several hundred toiletry items and sweet treats. And last week, as volunteers were working flat out to wrap the Christmas gifts, PLA staff visited the centre to help pack some of the parcels. The PLA is a long-standing partner of the charity, providing it with a yearly grant of around £30,000 to support the Centre.
Tilbury Seafarers’ Centre chairman Alex Campbell said: “Our chaplains deliver the parcels to visiting ships or the seamen pop by to pick them up. It gives us an incredible feeling to see the look on their faces when they receive these gifts. Some have said to us ‘You don’t know me, but you give me a Christmas present?’. It’s so worthwhile, who doesn’t like to get a present at Christmas?”
PLA deputy harbour master, Lyn Kindlen-Funnell, commented: “I’ve worked on merchant ships over Christmas and you can’t overstate how important gifts like these are. It’s the seafarers efforts that ensure we all have access to life’s essentials including food and fuel. With that in mind, we wanted to do our bit to support the Centre and to say thank you at Christmas.”
Last year, the Centre opened a 24-hour lounge, so that seafarers could have round-the-clock access to the centre, where they can Skype their families or simply relax.
Archival Bait, a visiting Filipino seaman and captain of gas tanker Gerda said: “It’s a great place to have that we can visit and relax in. And having a little something at Christmas is a nice treat too. We have not been home for around eight months and it’s good to be able to use the wifi here so we can get in touch with our families.”
The Centre also provides pastoral care, thanks to its two resident chaplains Frans Sahetapy, Wojciech Holub and Mark Moeller. There is a prayer room on site and Alex said the Centre is hoping to expand its premises in 2018, to include an outdoor recreation area.
“We are working hard to provide a comfortable place for seafarers to visit while they are so far from home”, Alex added. “We still need donations for Christmas to make the parcels and would love any help the local community could provide. It’s always greatly appreciated.”