September 17 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
A project to turn a shabby quayside building into a high-tech advice and social hub for seafarers is moving forward thanks to a funding boost.
Fundraisers are over half way towards a £10,000 target to bring back a base for the caring service to Great Yarmouth after a gap of around six years.
For port chaplain Peter Paine having a centre to carry on his crucial work with the maritime community will make all the difference and mean he can reach out to the estimated 15,000 seafarers who pass through the port every year.
This week Evert Maandag, managing director of Vroon Offshore Services handed over £2500 to help refurbish the former stevedore centre that has been redundant for at least 20 years.
As well as making the donation to kick start the transformation Mr Maandag pledged his continuing support and hailed the importance of the service in a busy port on the brink of a wind farm boom.
He said: “We believe a port chaplain is an important person and the seaman’s centre is like a safe haven for people of all nationalities and religions to meet, have a coffee, surf the internet and get in touch with their family. That is why we want to support this plan and we are committed to the region and this project.”
Rev Paine, port chaplain for 14 years, said he had a team of stout people who shared his vision driving the project forward.
He said begging letters had been sent out to businesses across the borough but that Vroon, which operates a fleet of emergency response and support vessels across the UK North Sea and Irish Seas, had been among the first to respond.
Interior designs worked up by students at Great Yarmouth College show an office and rest room which will have TV, internet access and wi-fi.
Operating without a centre had meant staging meetings either in his car or at a local cafe. Often seafarers far from home faced both good and bad news about family members that they were helpless to do anything about and struggled to deal with.
Mr Paine said: “I am absolutely delighted that every day we are taking a step forward not one forward and two back as we were, and the location is perfect. We have a manageable building that come the end of this year will be a 21st century centre for seafarers.
“It is not a one-off. We have to maintain the building and we do need donations to keep us going.”
With a lack of volunteers cited as one of the reasons for the failure of the earlier mission Rev Paine is keen to gather a team of up to 30 people to help keep the centre going.
Anyone who comes forward will need to have a passion for the sea - a common bond that can help forge friendships with those who arrive in port from all over the world - and to be able to talk and listen to seafarers.
Extra training will be given to ships visitors.
The open day for volunteers is at the centre (top of the free parking spaces in South Quay, Berth 21) on Saturday August 9, 10-4pm.
For more information, to volunteer or donate contact Rev Paine on 07788 111823.