Thousands of untold stories...
Letter to Friends around the World # 83

The PCT Seamen's/Fishermen's Service Center was established in 1986 at the fish market of Chi-chin in Kaohsiung. The origins of the Service Center began with the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT). It had come to the attention of several committee members that the number of ships in the area that were meeting disasters at sea, and also being detained in foreign ports was steadily increasing. They decided to start a program to support the fishing community.

The Service Center helped Yong * and his family. His wife had come to the Center asking for help because of her husband's unemployment and the fact that their house could be taken away. We asked her to bring Yong in so we could understand better his needs, so he could receive the proper assistance. She told us that her husband has spent almost all of his life on boats that he could barely communicate with others.

Yong's wife described her husbands miserable life. She spoke of harsh employers and unpaid salaries. Yong had a severe health condition and no labour or health insurance. We applied for emergency assistance. We supported him but the situation went progressively worse. His daughter ran away from home and his wife divorced him. We accompanied Yong throughout his hospitalisation, death and funeral.

This is merely one of the miserable tales out of thousands of seamen's untold stories. Almost all of the seamen and fishing crews have to work their whole life at sea in order to support their family. The sea is like an invisible prison holding them back from home.

Their life gets even worse if their family has problems. Later on these seamen have to face poverty, family separation and illness after getting off from the boat. At the end of their lives, they will be in debt with unpaid health insurance, and a huge bill from the hospital.

The Service Center help seafarers and fishermen to receive the necessary salary payments and safety at work. They also help them to find new jobs and will also visit them at hospital or at home if necessary. They want to improve the fairness of the fishing business.

From the PCT Seamen's/Fishermen's Service Center Newsletter,

Kaohsiung, The South of the Island of Taiwan

* Yong means "brave" in Chinese