A New Encounter Every Time

Dec 29, 2009

Episcopal Service Corps intern fuses with the unpredictable life of a seafarer

In August 2008, Milwaukee, WI native Kristin Saylor moved to New York to begin an internship placement with the Episcopal Service Corps, working for a year at the Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) International Seafarers’ Center in Port Newark. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Saylor said she wanted “to go out and do something practical,” so is she getting the experience she wanted?
Saylor’s daily routine consists of interacting with seafarers. Saylor gained her sea legs in August shadowing SCI Chaplains in Port Newark. Now, she visits ships daily in the busy international port. Saylor’s responsibilities also include supporting SCI’s comprehensive services for mariners, working with merchant marine veterans, the Christmas at Sea volunteer knitting program, and attorneys in the Center for Seafarers’ Rights.

Saylor enthuses about her work. She says she enjoys learning about the world and interacting with people. Raised bilingual, Saylor brings knowledge of several languages to her work. The Rev. David M. Rider, SCI’s President and Executive Director, reports, “She speaks fluent German to ship captains, surprising and delighting them in the process.”

In addition to encountering different cultures, Saylor describes the port itself as a different culture. “Everything is enormous, industrial, and regulated, and it can be a tough reality to face.” In her work, she likes to add a friendly, smiling human face to seafarers’ stay in the port and offer the opportunity to talk.

When asked about her routine of ship visiting, she explained that her secret is to start each encounter with enthusiasm no matter what has happened elsewhere. Saylor adds that most people (like longshoreman or agents) climb a ship’s gangway to conduct the perfunctory and occupational drudgery of fast-paced maritime commerce. “It’s rare,” she says, “to have someone board who’s enthusiastic about seeing them. I like being that person.”

Saylor believes the elements of the unexpected she faces in her daily work equip her for challenges beyond this internship. Although still discovering what the future holds, she sees this hands-on experience as preparation for the types of things she sees doing. “I feel like I’m really communicating with people,” Saylor discloses. From counseling to going shopping to joining seafarers in meals, she delights in her very ‘practical’ job.

About the Episcopal Service Corps

The Episcopal Service Corps is a national federation of young adult service programs in the United States. Independently managed programs vary, but all Episcopal Church-based programs provide opportunities for young adults to explore working for social justice, practice spiritual awareness and discern vocations, train to develop leadership skills, and live a simple, sustainable lifestyle (most programs lived in intentional community). For more information, visit http://www.episcopalservicecorps.org/