Seemannsmission. Sounds very serious, doesn´t it?
However, we don´t do missionary work. So, what is it we do then? Sure. We are a Christian Seemannsmission. But it is not so much about Christian religion itself but rather about interfaith values. Altruism is quite important to us, making people feel welcome and letting them know that there´s someone to help them without putting them over the barrel. We´d like to be a family even though many seafarers are very far from home. But let´s do this step by step.
Our seamans club DUCKDALBEN, located in Hamburg´s harbour, has been around for about 30 years. Open 364 days a year, it seeks to provide a place for the many seafarers, who linger in the harbour every day. A place for relaxing and spending leisure time away from their vessel.
Why is that so important?
Have you ever tried living at your workplace for several months on end? That´s a seafarers day-to-day life. In our club we provide things that are not readily available on board of a ship. The seafarers are able to contact their families back home, via internet as well as through our telephones. Additionally, we offer telephone cards and SIM cards, free in-house WiFi and several computers for seafarers who don´t own laptops. We´ve also got a shop that covers everyday needs and sells toothpaste, other articles for daily hygiene, souvenirs, sweets, snacks and much more.
But there is one thing that´s indispensable for clubs: the bar.
Is there anything better than drinking a cold beer, or a lemonade, a glass of wine, or even just some water or coffee with your friends? No matter whether you have known them for a very long time or have just gotten to know them. Maybe you?d even like to share some sausages?
Many seafarers support large families back home with their income. The club helps them send money home in a quick, easy and safe way.
Religion, as already mentioned, must be represented as well of course. And we´ve got a special room for that: a multireligious one. In here, all world religions can be found and have their own altar for believers to pray at. Set up in a big oval, these tables symbolise something very significant, namely the various religions understanding and togetherness.
In the large hall there are billiard tables, table football and a dartboard. If you?re not in the mood for those you could also sit down, have a chat or make music as we?ve got a piano, several guitars, some drums and other small instruments. Of course, sports should not miss out either. Therefore, we´ve also got ping-pong tables and a sports field.
Quieter evenings can be spent in our library, complete with a fireplace. If in the right mood however, many seafarers enjoy passing their time with karaoke. Considering the seafarers hard work, injuries and illnesses don?t come as a surprise. That is why every Wednesday a doctor and a nurse pay a visit to the club to advise and examine those seafarers who seek advice. Free of charge of course, like so many things.
If you now ask yourself why such an effort is made for the seafarers, then there´s a rather simple answer to that. A seafarers life on board of a ship is very hard and they don´t just work for themselves but for all of us and our consumption. It´s not only that they are forced to live where they work but also that a ship can be like a prison from which they might not be able to escape for several months as layover in many modern ports is just a few hours. Apart from that there are many people all over the world who make false promises and bad offers, thereby robbing the seafarers of their hard-earned money. And those are not just local criminals. Every now and again we experience problems with shipping companies, captains and officers. For that as well we have a sympathetic ear. Working closely with the ITF we provide aid for legal difficulties like not paid out wages or poor conditions aboard. Naturally, this is not true for all the shipping companies and without the strong support of many we would not be able to do our work the way we do it.
Spiritual welfare is another important pillar of our work. Be it confidential conversations, help concerning family conflicts or visits to the hospital or prison: just listen. Everyone benefits from getting it all off ones chest and we´re here to sit and listen, encourage and help. We try to make the seafarers? lives a little easier, and to represent a small part of home when they are so far away from family and friends as well as letting them know that we are here for them, with us you?re in safe hands! And every day we experience it: so many different people with different nationalities spending time together, chatting, having fun; and having laughter and high spirits fill the whole club.