Dear SCI Friends, Supporters, and the Mariners and Seafarers we serve,
Do you remember 2019? On December 31st when revelers gathered to ring in the New Year, the S&P 500 was up 28.9% and the unemployment rate stood at just 3.5%. It was a time that could best be described as a period of “calm seas and fair winds.” The 2019 Annual Report of The Seamen’s Church Institute reflects that time of prosperity and accomplishment.
Once published, an annual report becomes a piece of history—a snapshot of the life and times of an organization frozen in time. It is by intent and purpose a document that reflects upon the past and 2019 was a year worth celebrating. It witnessed the retirements of the President & Executive Director, the Reverend David Rider, after 12 successful years at the helm; and of the Director of the Center for Seafarer Rights, Mr. Douglas Stevenson, Esq., after 29 years of service to SCI and mariners around the globe. Indeed, 2019 was a year of significant accomplishments even for an august organization whose history dates back to 1834.
Nevertheless, as we launch the 2019 Annual Report and send it out into the world, I can’t help but think how much has changed since December 31, 2019. Millions of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. alone, with more than 110,000 virus-related deaths; an unemployment rate near 15%, with tremendous market volatility; and polls showing race-relations at the front-of-mind of most Americans as we look to the November general elections.
However, the Seamen’s Church Institute is no stranger to adversity. SCI has a revered tradition of response to new challenges with innovation and advocacy for change. Every crisis presents an opportunity. Throughout the past few months, SCI has sought novel ways to address the ever-changing scenarios presented by the pandemic. Our corps of chaplains adapted to a world in which physical vessel visits and mariner transport were not always possible. They embraced the medium of digital chaplaincy to engage with seafarers and mariners in port, underway, and at home through social media, video calls, email, text, and have produced videos presenting strategies for dealing with mariner isolation and other concerns that have been exacerbated by Covid-19 restrictions.
At our maritime education campuses in Houston and Paducah, we have favorably used this time to retool mariner continuing education through blended learning and videos, while investing in SCI-Houston’s additional capacity for conducting feasibility studies.
In our advocacy work, the newly renamed Center for Mariner Advocacy has provided important guidelines and insights on crew changeovers, contract extensions, and assistance with obtaining emergency financial aid for mariners, the latter with the direct assistance of our chaplains.
Looking ahead, I do not know what the future has in store for SCI, but as an optimist who believes that missions exist to help solve emerging problems and challenges, I think that SCI’s best days lie ahead. My colleagues and I remain committed to meeting the most pressing and crucial needs of mariners well into the 21st century.
Thank you for your support and for your commitment to SCI’s mission to the men and women in the maritime community.
The Reverend Mark S. Nestlehutt
President & Executive Director