Project set to give foreign sailors Christmas cheer

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A COMMUNITY project will see sailors docked in Leith this Christmas given a little bit of festive cheer.

An initiative co-ordinated by Leith Churches Together will see more than 450 Christmas parcels distributed to foreign sailors forced to spend the holidays away from their families.

The parcels will contain the likes of a home-knitted woolly hat, small gifts such as toiletries or stationery, and a Christmas card designed by nine-year-old St Mary’s RC Primary pupil Eleanor Horton.

The card features the Leith badge and motto and includes the message: “Wishing you Peace and Happiness from Leith, Scotland.”

Jennifer Stark, leader of Leith Churches Outreach Project and part-time chaplain at Ocean Terminal, said: “Really, it’s just about offering the sailors a bit of human contact.

“It’s all about reaching out to people that are a long way from home and giving them a big welcome from Leith.”

The initiative has joint funding and support from the Sailors’ Society, Mission to Seafarers Scotland Episcopal Church and the Apostleship of the Sea Roman Catholic, as well as Leith Churches Together.

Ocean Terminal has agreed to host parcel wrapping events in which passers-by, especially children, are invited to wrap a parcels and write Christmas greeting on cards.

Gifts will be taken on to ships by the Scottish Port Chaplains at Christmas time, in Leith, Grangemouth, Rosyth, Hound Point, Braefoot Bay and Troon.

Leith Port Chaplain Tim Bell said: “Up until abut 15 years ago sailors used to be able to walk in to town for a few hours a day, but now the dock is a security zone and they can not do that easily.

“This initiative is a very welcome bit of reconnection.

“Many people are surprised to hear that 95 per cent of the things we pay for and buy in this country are brought here by sea and more than 99 per cent of the sailors who bring them over are not British.

“Many are from impoverished countries and spend their working lives earning money to try to get their children out of poverty.”

n The Ocean Terminal event will be held today and tomorrow from 10am to 4pm near the information desk and on Saturday from 2pm to 4pm at the St Mary’s Star of the Sea Parish Centre.