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'He saw his baby for the first time'

Port chaplains truly can be messengers of hope for the world’s 1.5 million seafarers …

Port chaplains truly can be messengers of hope for the world’s 1.5 million seafarers …

One day, when Sailors’ Society chaplain Regina Borges de Paula boarded a ship in Rio, one of the seafarers came rushing over to her, anxious to call home.

His wife was heavily pregnant and he was desperate to talk to her and make sure she was OK.

The world’s 1.5 million seafarers spend on average 270 consecutive days away from their families, and communication can be difficult. Sailors’ Society chaplains, the charity’s ‘messengers of hope’, help them to contact home and offer a hand of friendship, pastoral support and practical welfare.

“I gave him access to our wi-fi and when he called her he got a huge surprise as she had given birth. They had a long chat and he saw his baby for the first time; both he and his wife were so thankful. For me, nothing in my ministry can be as special as this,” said Regina (pictured above).

Around 90 per cent of world trade is transported by sea; we all rely on seafarers to keep this trade going and they sacrifice so much – missing birthdays, weddings and even funerals can be commonplace.

Since joining in 2014, Regina has visited 526 ships and reached 9,468 seafarers.

“A Ukrainian seafarer used the Society’s wi-fi to get in touch with his family in the Crimean conflict zone. He was incredibly sad and worried.”

Despite the thousands of miles that separated the seafarer from his family, the practical support Regina gave him helped put his mind at ease.

Away from home for months, seafarers are often unable to access facilities and Regina has transported more than 3,000 seafarers to the city from the port.

“I took one seafarer to the dentist and he couldn’t believe I was doing it for free – he said that he didn’t deserve such kindness.

“We serve all seafarers regardless of their rank, faith or circumstance. The greatest reward is the friendship between us.”

Regina goes above and beyond the call of duty to help the people she meets.

“One seafarer came to me needing new glasses as his were broken. All of the shops in Rio were shut as it was a holiday, but I had some reading glasses to take on a mission trip to the Amazon and one of those pairs fitted him!

“Things like this, a present at Christmas or a blanket to keep them warm might seem like simple gestures, but they make people feel happy and show them that they are cared for.”

Emotional support is a crucial part of the work Sailors’ Society chaplains provide and Regina is there for seafarers visiting Rio de Janeiro when they need help.

“A Filipino seafarer told me he was leaving his vessel due to the death of his brother; he was in crisis and needed to be with his family.

“Another time, a seafarer asked me to pray for his daughter who was about to give birth. She had heart problems and the doctors were worried. We visited the ship the following day to hear that her baby had been born safely and both were doing well. The seafarer was grateful for our support.”

Regina transforms seafarers’ lives at home, in port and at sea and although she may never see those she meets again, she still keeps in contact with a large number of them.

“A few years ago I met a female seafarer whose grandfather was ill. She emailed me asking for help. I liaised with my colleague Jasper in the Philippines, who, with the Society’s assistance, helped the man access medical support.

“The next time I saw her she asked me to pray with her as her grandfather had passed away. Distraught, she needed someone to listen to her. I invited her to come to my house and meet my family, and to this day she contacts me with updates on her life.”

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