Colin Jenkins, a chaplain at the Port of Cork, had boarded vessels arriving from all over the world. He bonded with seafarers. Most of these seamen live in critical conditions and have to be at sea for about nine months without getting to meet their families back home.
He said that he met crews aboard Turkish, German, and Filipino ships. He got gift bags donated by multiple church groups with socks, toothpaste, and other daily use items that crew members need. Sim cards were provided, so that these seafarers may be able to connect with families back home.
The ship captain asked him if he could manage to bring 100 McDonalds burgers and 60 chips. Jenkins has told that it is not about savouring the first burger in months. But McDonald’s is a food joint frequented by many sailors when they are home and celebrating with their families. It is more like a piece of home but at sea for these seafarers.
Colin has been visiting crew members at Cork harbour for about fifteen years. He said that even though life has always mostly been hard for those who work at sea, Covid-19 has been more difficult and extremely stressful for crews.
While collaborating with a non-denominational church group dedicated to supporting sailors coming from Ireland, named the Seaman’s Christian Friends, he has observed how isolating life at the sea can be.
Rev Isobel Jackson who works for the Templebreedy Group of parishes keeps encouraging the local community to donate items brought to sailors.
Before Covid-19, many sailors would be flying home from Ireland. That is no longer an option now. The seafarers are going through a difficult time mentally. The suicide rate has gone up among seafarers over the last year. It is a critical time to lend them support.
Isobel aims to have a dedicated building in Ringaskiddy similar to the one operated by the Mission to Seafarers, Dublin, where crew members get to use Wifi, relax with a cup of coffee before they take off again.