Crisis in Ukraine: Columbia acts to help traumatized sailors and their families
Columbia Shipmanagement (CSM), together with its owning company and customers, has raised more than $1.5 million and assembled a team of 320 psychologists, mostly from Ukraine, to help traumatized families of seafarers who have been affected by the war in Ukraine.
The package, funded by the new Columbia and Clients Charitable Fund, will help provide accommodation, as well as professional psychological support, to traumatized seafarers and their families at designated “Columbia sanctuaries” in Poland and Romania.
Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS), provider of professional mental health support to the maritime sector, has assembled the team of 320 psychologists who will be on hand to help families of seafarers suffering from the effects of war in Ukraine.
Columbia Shipmanagement has taken over a hotel in Romania and two villas in Poland. These will serve as safe havens for families waiting to go through the visa and immigration process. Families are welcome to stay for up to six months while their applications are processed.
“My only requirement was that the accommodations have security guards at the gates to protect women and children entering,” said Mark O’Neil, president and CEO of Columbia Shipmanagement. “We have set up these sanctuaries for six months, fully paid, and families will receive food, shelter and clothing. Then, through the work of the MHSS, we are also able to provide the necessary psychological support
“The war in Ukraine has affected many members of our maritime community. I am so proud of what the industry has been able to achieve through this joint action to raise funds so that we can support seafarers and their families during this incredibly difficult and trying time.
“The situation in Ukraine is deeply distressing, much more for those directly affected, and providing shelter and psychological help is the least we can do. We are all united in our support for all sailors and families affected by this terrible conflict.
“I said it from the beginning, everything revolves around the victims of the conflict, whether they are Ukrainians, Russians, Georgians or Filipinos, it doesn’t matter. They are the victims. And when we created the Columbia and Clients Charitable Fund, Schoeller Holding, our shareholder, and CSM each invested $500,000. Some of our clients and staff have contributed so much that we now have over $1.3-1.4 million in the fund. The guiding principle was that the fund should not be bureaucratic as we wanted to get money into the hands of those who needed it without having to constantly reconcile money.
As part of its initiative to help traumatized sailors, CSM has also set up four meeting points, one in Russia, one in Ukraine, one in Poland and one in Romania for any family in need of food, clothing or housing.
“These rendezvous points are there to get money into the hands of those who need it and assistance is there to help them get through the asylum system,” O’Neil said. “This appointment program has been extended, through InterManager, to all seafarer families employed by other ship management companies on a reciprocal basis.”
IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL HEALTH
Charles Watkins, Clinical Psychologist and CEO of Mental Health Support Solutions, said, “I am delighted that the industry recognizes the importance of mental health. War-torn families not only need financial help, but also psychological support, as these normal and abnormal psychological reactions to traumatic events can have an impact for many years. The sooner people receive professional support, the better.
According to Watkins, Ukrainian psychologists were very eager to return to work and help those in need
“Yesterday two people arrived here in Romania from Mariupol who were traumatized and we were able to offer the appropriate support in their own language,” Watkins said. “The sooner you treat mental issues, the greater the chance they will be fine. With the fund, we can offer post-traumatic stress psychoeducation as well as regular consultations; it all comes together. Each sanctuary will have its own specific needs but there will also be general needs It is fantastic that CSM has made this possible as this type of crisis advice is new.