Crafty boost to Seafarers' Centre

YOUNGSTERS have used their craft skills to try to raise some extra funds for Felixstowe's Seafarers' Centre, which is coping with a cash crisis.

YOUNGSTERS have used their craft skills to try to raise some extra funds for Felixstowe's Seafarers' Centre, which is coping with a cash crisis.

The children at Kingsfleet Craft Club were upset the centre was facing problems - and decided they would love to help it.

They worked with leaders to create a set of cards which could be sold to raise some money to carry on running its services for the thousands of seafarers from around the world who visit the port each year.

Penny Parker, one of the organisers of the club of seven to 11 year olds, who meet weekly after-school at Kingsfleet Primary, Ferry Road, Old Felixstowe, said the children had really enjoyed the project.

“They were making the cards using a system called matting and layering and using pictures of ships, the Spa Gardens, beach huts, seafront and different places in Felixstowe, and then we put Greetings from Felixstowe and Best Wishes from Felixstowe on them,” she said.

“They made lots and lots and we bagged them up so they can go the centre to be sold.

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“The seafarers can use them to send messages and letters home and hopefully make some money for the centre.”

She said the club was looking at other ways it could help - and it was hoped its young knitters might be skilled enough soon to make some woolly hats for the sailors.

Bill Townsend, one of the drivers of the minibus which transports the seafarers to and from the centre and their vessels, visited the club to collect the cards.

The seafarers' centre has been running at a loss for three years and has already had to cut its hours to save some staffing costs.

It is mostly run by volunteers and is used by more than 25,000 seafarers a year - giving them a vital break from ship and a chance to relax from the months at sea, allowing them to contact families, receive advice and support, and buy a few little luxuries.

The centre's power bills have soared, and fuel charges are having a huge impact on the cost of the free bus ferrying seamen between their ship and the centre.

Spending by seafarers has been down, crews are smaller, and faster turnarounds - especially with ships now delivering less containers - mean less time ashore.

FASTFACTS: Felixstowe Seafarers' Centre

The centre is an ecumenical centre involving The British Sailors' Society, The Missions to Seamen and The Apostleship of the Sea - Anglican, non-conformist and Roman Catholic organisations - run by an executive committee, volunteers and manager.

Its aim is to provide rest, recreation, entertainment and spiritual guidance for seafarers in Felixstowe without restriction of nationality, race or creed.

The chaplains visit hundreds of ships visiting Felixstowe every year, running a mini-bus shuttle service to take seafarers to and from the centre, where there are facilities to email and phone home, change their money, worship, play games, and rest.

The centre is open every day from 10am to 10pm. The shop and bar are run by part-time staff. The bus drivers are volunteers during the day and part-time employees at night and weekends.