In March of this year, a public radio reporter based in San Francisco, Julie Caine, contacted the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) about doing a feature story on the Institute’s work in the Bay Area. Julie said she did not believe many people knew about SCI—much less the lives of the seafarers the organization serves. She wanted to explore a “day in the life” and discover the reasons SCI would set up a center to help professional mariners from around the world.
Julie coordinated with the Director of SCI’s International Maritime Center, Adrienne Yee, to visit the multi-denominational seafarer hospitality center in the Port of Oakland. Julie asked if she could shadow Adrienne as she made her rounds—from transporting seafarers to local shops to helping them phone or Skype home to visiting seafarers on board ship.
Julie wanted to find out the way SCI works. “Who is served,” she asked before recording the story, “and what is the interaction between ship and shore? What are the needs of seafarers, and how does SCI help them?” The answers to these and other questions came from her in-person visit to SCI’s Center—meeting seafarers, talking to them and even going shopping with them.
In her story, “Shopping with the Seafarers,” Julie recounts meeting Indian seafarer Dheeraj Singh and asking him why he is eager to buy electronics in America, when likely those goods—made closer to his home country than the U.S.—might very well reside in a container on his ship.
Elsewhere in the report, Julie examines transportation in port, life at sea, seafarers’ contracts, and the main reason for leaving home: supporting families. She says of the seafarers she encountered, “They are looking out for the their families—and the maritime center is looking out for them.”
The story struck a chord with SCI Chaplain James Kollin, Adrienne Yee’s coworker some 2,000 miles away in the Port of New York and New Jersey, where SCI runs a similar center to the one in Oakland. “I heard the story,” said James. “As a chaplain, I find it realistic, straightforward and meaningful—a valuable piece to remember this Thanksgiving.”
You can listen to Julie’s story, which originally aired on KALW’s Crosscurrents program on November 19, archived online here. There, you can also view photos, including one of Singh and SCI’s Center, and explore related links.