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An ecumenical charity took the Christmas spirit to hundreds of seafarers who passed through the port of Liverpool in December.
In the lead-up to Christmas, Liverpool Seafarers Centre (LSC) launched an appeal for donations from the public with the aim of providing individual presents, such as confectionery, socks and toiletries, to as many as 500 crew members as well as cards handwritten by volunteers.
Ships leaving Liverpool and destined to be at sea on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day received gifts, along with those in port on those days. LSC presented each vessel in the port with a ‘ship present’ such as a box of chocolates, given to the ship’s cook for safekeeping until Christmas Eve, along with the individual gifts.
John Wilson, the charity’s chief executive, said he was grateful to the public for their response: ‘The people of Merseyside are very generous when you ask. People will think, “Oh yeah, I can afford to buy a box of chocolates and drop them into the centre”.’
Mr Wilson added that the charity sought to make it a ‘green Christmas’ by not using wrapping paper for the gifts but rather recyclable bags (presented with a woolly hat on top).
LSC did not just provide gifts for ships in the port of Liverpool. Mr Wilson explained that it sought to cater too for vessels at Garston Docks and on the other side of the Mersey at Birkenhead, Tranmere, Bromborough, Eastham and Stanlow. ‘On average we have contact with 50,000 seafarers throughout year so in December, about two and a half thousand we’d see,’ he said.
According to LSC, care for seafarers this Christmas was particularly important owing to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which had left many stuck at sea in 2020. ‘We already know the effects the pandemic is having on seafarers mentally, with many describing feeling isolated and forgotten,’ said Mr Wilson.
Outreach work with seafarers in Liverpool dates back to the 19th century through the Anglican Mersey Mission to Seafarers, founded in 1856. Today’s charity, which officially formed in 2008, is the result of a successful partnership between the Anglican Mersey Mission to Seafarers and the Catholic Apostleship of the Sea (Liverpool). The LSC headquarters are in Crosby but it also has a support centre at the Liverpool Cruise Terminal, run from a converted shipping container, as well as a hub at Queen Elizabeth II Dock at Eastham on the Wirral.
• For more information, visit: http://liverpoolseafarerscentre.org/about/