The tragic incident of the chokka [squid] fishing vessel, the Maredon, on her maiden voyage, which capsized off St. Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape on 16 July 2017 is still not forgotten.

Of the 16 crew members, twelve crew members were rescued including the Captain and First Mate and four crew members were confirmed deceased.

It was during this time that Rev Boet van Schalkwyk, Principal Chaplain of the Sailors’ Society, SA and Regional Co-ordinator of the Crisis Response Network offered the services of the CRN to give trauma and grief counselling to the survivors and families of all the crew members.

The Department of Social Services in the Eastern Cape welcomed Rev Van Schalkwyk’ response and offer to assist  and together with his team, Rev Danie Taljard from Port Elizabeth and Chaplain Steve van Schalkwyk from Cape Town, all members of the Sailors’ Society, went to St Francis Bay on 23 July.

Working with the social workers, the chaplains visited the survivors and their families, as well as the families of the missing and deceased and spent much time talking, praying and counselling. . They also handed out beanies and T shirts which were gratefully received while Social Services arranged food parcels.

So often such incidents are forgotten, assistance is rendered at the time and life moves on. However the Sailors’ Society has instituted an outreach campaign and till renders sorely needed help.

Rev and Mrs Van Shalkwyk visited East London, Port Elizabeth and Humansdorp as a follow up after the tragedy where they met with families of the deceased crew members and in discussion certain needs came to light. As a result the Sailors Society has initiated a 3 month feeding scheme, whereby food vouchers and electricity vouchers are handed out through the Department of Social Service department to 4 widows. Mrs Van Schalkwyk also had meetings with the widows explaining the benefits of entrepreneurship.

At Christmas they were also not forgotten.  Each year the project called “Share your Christmas with a Seafarer” commences at the beginning of December when items collected such as mugs, toiletries, mittens, beanies and sweets are packed and handed out to the seafarers in port. With the help of the East London branch of the Sailors Society parcels were packed and the captain handed out to the crew members who were absolutely delighted.

Since the establishment of the CRN, Rev Van Schalkwyk and his team, of 13 highly trained responders have been involved in many situations in South Africa and other African ports.

Not all are dramatic, but chaplains visit hundred of ships in port in a year attending to those on vessels and in hospital in need of help, prayer and just to hear a friendly and caring word – making the well-being of seafarers their main concern.

 It is for this reason that the Sailors’ Society was established. They do not have all the answers but are able to alleviate so much suffering to enable those who are touched by their caring to continue with hope.