Seafarers’ House in San Juan, Puerto Rico

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The view from Seafarers' House, Plaza de Colón in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Seafarers' House COVID-19: Preparedness

The Caribbean

Seafarers House is preparing the facilities to prevent COVID-19 and receive visitors as soon as the cruise industry return again.

Since March 2020, our way of life changed dramatically here in Puerto Rico.  We had our first two cases of COVID-19 on March 13th and two days later, a mandatory closure of all businesses was issued to help prevent the spread of the virus, our facilities included.  Currently, Seafarers’ House (SHSJ) is closed to the public ever since the cruise industry has been halted by the pandemic.

However, that has not stopped us from making the necessary adjustments to our facilities so when seafarers return to visit us, they will feel safe.  To protect all visitors and employees, new Protocols have been implemented to prevent COVID-19 contagion.  We are implementing these new protocols so that seafarers may enjoy our facilities in peace, knowing we are doing everything in our power to keep them secure.  Some examples of the adjustments that have been made to the facilities are: the addition of a protective barrier made of acrylic in the reception area, labels on the floor indicating where visitors need to wait in line, a temperature check of each person visiting the establishment, alcohol dispensers placed in different parts of the center to disinfect hands and visitors must also complete a form before entering the premises.  Visitors will not be the only ones following safety protocols.  Our employees will have their own protocols as well such as: Taking their temperature before each work shift, continuously washing their hands throughout their shift, practicing social distancing with everyone, etc.

The lifestyle changes cause by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to adapt.  The usage of masks and hand sanitizers will be with us for the foreseeable future.  The most important thing we can do in the face of adversity is find solutions to overcome the trials and obstacles cause by this pandemic.  Once the cruise industry reopens, we will be here waiting to serve seafarers again and warmly welcome them back to their home away from home.

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Seafarers’ House’s motto is “Your Home Away from Home”. We try to live up to that motto for seafarers by making their as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. We provide a wide range of services to seafarers for their convenience, whether it be internet services or phone services. One very important service that we provide is our mini market. We understand that it can sometimes be hard for seafarers to get the goods and items they need fast when on the go. Seafarers’ House try to ease that problem by offering the sale of products from various categories relevant to seafarers. The item categories that are available in our mini market are:

  • SNACKS

Seafarers’ House has a wide variety of affordable snacks that will help many seafarers cure that hunger in a pinch. We offer snacks like; Chocolates, potato chip brands, candy bars, “Chicharrones” (a popular pork rinds snack in Puerto Rico), cookie variety and our most popular snack among seafarers, Cup Noodles, which come in a variety of flavors and sizes. We also add monthly different additional snacks to our inventory.

  • DRINKS        

We provide a wide range of soft drinks and juices; seafarers’ will have many options to satiate their thirst. We sell drinks like sodas (Pepsi, Sprite, Fanta, Root Beer, Ginger Ale, etc.), juices (orange juice, apple juice, fruit punch, etc.), Energy Drinks (Monster, Mountain Dew Kickstart, etc.) Starbucks cold coffee drinks and a few local favorites like coconut water.

  • HYGIENE & HEALTH PRODUCTS

For those wanting to get rid of headaches, fever, and just overall pain relief, we sell pain relieving medicines. Seafarers needing hygiene products can buy our assortment of our shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, or hair care products. We also sell skin care products and toothpastes. Seafarers will also find different kinds of detergent products for their laundry.

  • ELECTRONICS

 We sell power banks that recharge the batteries of electronics, phone chargers and micro SD memory cards and pen drives. We will also be offering additional electronics in the future.

  • ACCESSORIES

We provide many accessories for seafarers that visit our center. Items like: backpacks, phone accessories, locks, belts for luggage and small handbags as well.

  • PHONE CARDS & SIM CARDS

If seafarers are looking for a way to call their loved ones, we sell phone cards that can be used either in our center or anywhere else in the United States. We also recharge phone cards if seafarers need more time. We sell SIM cards that work in the US and its territories and we provide recharge services for this as well.

These are some of the many examples of the item’s seafarers will find for sale at our center. We will keep seafarers updated through our social media accounts when new items are available or when there are discounts that they may take advantage of. Our goal is to ensure that seafarers always have options when they come to the center and shop with us.

HOW TO CONTACT US?

If seafarers wish to contact us here at Seafarers’ House San Juan, whether to ask a question about our services or products, they may contact our office by phone at: (787) 722-7575; or they may email us to speak to an employee at: info@seafarerspr.org, If seafarers wish to contact us regarding an inquiry on packages or information on our package policy, they may contact us via email at: packages@seafarerspr.org.

Despite the pandemic that has affected the entire world, we at Seafarers' House San Juan (SHSJ) have not stopped working, nor have we stopped our small activities and events. Work that cannot be done in the office is being done remotely at our homes. The existence of social networks has helped us greatly when it comes to celebrating these special holidays and events that are of importance to seafarers.

Last June 25th, we gave our appreciation to all seafarers for the great work they do. As a way to celebrate this day, SHSJ uploaded a video in appreciation of their service to the industry. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we are unable to have many activities like we used to with seafarers. But hopefully by next year this will only be a bad memory and we can celebrate special occasions and holidays with seafarers again in style. Apart from the video collage for the International Day of the Seafarer, an art also was uploaded to our social media accounts, Facebook and Instagram.

For the month of October, we will be celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness, SHSJ will create art to upload to our social networks and will also be uploading information regarding breast cancer. Once the cruise industry returns to normal operations, small activities will be planned in the SHSJ center. If we are given the green light to visit seafarers on their ships, we will take our small activities on board and give out small gifts as we have done on past ship visits.

November is the month of Non-Violence Against Women Awareness, which is celebrated on the 25th. SHSJ will be using the motto "Orange the World" for our social media uploads as has been done on previous occasions, along with the motto that the UN will use; "Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent , Collect! ”. And we will also be using the local motto "Not one more, not one less."

And to end the year, the month of December begins with HIV Awareness on the 1st, SHSJ will be creating art which will be uploaded to our social networks as well as general information regarding the topic. December is also the month where the biggest activities of the year are celebrated, Christmas, a holiday full of joy and cheer, as well as New Year's Eve on the 31st, where with great hope for a better future, we will celebrate the new year.

Hopefully the cruise industry will return to normal soon so that we may visit seafarers again on board their ships docked in San Juan’s ports and partake on new activities with them. The industry will inevitably take off again, if not in the next few months, then gradually over time before the end of the year. When this happens, we will be able to celebrate these important occasions with seafarers once again. With hope in our hearts, by next year we may be free of the Coronavirus and everyone may return to their normal everyday lives.

San Juan is trying to overcome many hurdles these last few months after a spike in COVID-19 infections rattles the entire island. New variants of the virus have been seen throughout the island and may be a factor in the rise of infections. Many people are getting vaccinated, making some people lower their guard and not follow COVID safety protocols. The rise in infections has made San Juan implement stricter rules to combat the virus. Fines of $100 are being given to people who do not wear masks and signs stating the safety guidelines have been placed in various parts of San Juan for tourists and visitors. Most restaurants in the city have implemented changes to their opening hours and have limited the capacity of visitors in their establishments. The Department of Health has implemented an administrative order stating that any visitor to the island that does not present a negative test result for the COVID-19 virus will be fined $300.

All of this has been heavily enforced as a consequence to visitors not following the safety guidelines, which has caused many incidents with the locals. There is hope that the rise in tourism to the city can help San Juan economically, considering the pandemic has caused the second-highest economic drop in Puerto Rico since recordkeeping began in 1980, according to Puerto Rico economist José Caraballo. National parks and beaches are open to the public, which may have helped in the increase of visits to the city. Opinions of how the Puerto Rican government relaxed safety restrictions at the beginning of the year are wide ranging, many believing the time had come for this to occur while others believing it was all too soon. Regardless of opinions, the recent rise in COVID-19 infections was a warning to all that the rules need to followed in San Juan.

The good news is that vaccinations have been going strong on the island. Since the start of the year, the vaccine has been distributed to the elderly and people that work in jobs that are a high risk for COVID-19 contamination. And just recently, young people over the age of 16 are starting to get their vaccine shots as well. There is hope that with the mass population vaccinated on the island, it may help slow down the COVID-19 spikes, since vaccinated people may get the antibodies necessary to give temporary immunity to the virus. This makes it difficult for the virus to spread around person to person. At the end of April of this year, over 3,000 Moderna vaccine shots were administered to people over the age of 18 in San Juan Parque Central.

Seafarers House San Juan has done their part in trying to follow the rules and set guidelines during the pandemic. We have yet to open our doors to the public, but we have implemented safety procedures and rules for when we do. Our goal is to cooperate with the rules set in San Juan and hopefully have a positive impact during the recuperation of the city. The hurdles are high, but the people of San Juan are hoping to see the light at the end of the tunnel and that the slow progression towards beating this pandemic will eventually finalize in the city seeing better days ahead.

COVID-19 ... how you have changed our lives!!

Indeed, the whole world has changed because of this terrible pandemic. All of us, regardless of race or gender, has in some way been negatively impacted by the pandemic, sadly some more than others. Before long we had to learn about the virus and its contagious spread around the globe, social distancing, and quarantines. We have learned to make habit the use of hand sanitizers, face masks and frequent hand washing to help reduce the spread of contagion. It has also become normal for many public places to take our body temperature before we enter an establishment. Supermarkets, restaurants, and even small corner stores have applied this protocol to keep people safe. These times have also drastically altered our personal lives, separating families who are normally close, in case someone in the family is more vulnerable than others to contagion. We have learned to interact with our family members online, virtual hugs replacing physical. All these changes are necessary preventive measures, to avoid the spread of the virus.

This COVID-19 pandemic has affected our professional lives as well. Many people are left without work while others have had to limit their studies or stop them completely. Consequently, this has negatively impacted many psychologically as well. But we are learning to adapt to this situation, either working from home or taking strict safety measures in the workplace, using protective equipment to prevent the spread of the virus. This has been a year filled with a lot of hard life lessons. Humanity must do their part to reduce the spread of the virus so the we may, hopefully someday soon, defeat it entirely and return to our normal way of life. Small sacrifices are necessary, like giving fist bumps instead of handshakes and conversing with others at safe distances while having our faces partly covered for everyone’s protection. All these little lifestyle changes can help keep our friends and loved ones safer.

Even though we have made drastic lifestyle changes due to the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, some have found positive things while adapting to this new way of life. It has helped many change their perspectives on how they live their lives. Some have learned the value of being at home, spending more time with their families. Many have learned the importance of mental health by slowing down to enjoy the little moments with friends and loved ones. To notice the small things around us that, due to our hectic lives, we sometimes ignore.

This historic, once in a lifetime moment we are all experiencing has been hard for everyone. Regardless, we strive to adapt and overcome adversity. The day will come when our way of life will return, and we may hold our loved ones again without fear.

In the meantime, Seafarers’ House San Juan wishes everyone to be safe and sends virtual hugs to those who need it!!

By: Lilliam Alvarado

SHSJ continues to offer our package services. Due to this crisis that has impacted the cruise industry, many seafarers are unable to acquire the many packages that are stored at our facilities. Due to the strict safety restrictions that the island and postal carriers are under, our package services have been severely limited. We have kept in touch with the seafarers who have packages with us, updating their status and asking them if they want to keep their packages in the center or want to have them sent to another address. Although, as stated earlier, we continue to work in a limited capacity and some restrictions on postal mail continue here in Puerto Rico. We have begun to send packages by mail to all seafarers who ask and are able to pay for shipping.

How are we handling the process?

  1. We are constantly monitoring the emails seafarers send us daily.
  2. If any seafarer wants us to send their packages to another location:
    1. We locate the package(s) stored in our center.
    2. We then ask for a detailed description of the packaged items or request your authorization to open the package so that we may view its contents. This needs to be done because the mail carriers ask to know the contents of the package for customs and to also give an estimate for shipping fees.
    3. We take the package to the mail carrier, to get the shipping cost. The cost may vary for each individual package.
    4. Once we acquire the shipping fee information, we send a message to the owner of the package to verify with them if they accept the shipping cost to send their package.
  3. If necessary, we will send the seafarer a customs form that they must fill out for international shipping.
  4. After they send the shipping payment (via PayPal), we will then proceed to mail their package(s). We will also send a copy of the delivery receipt by email. If there is money left over, it will be sent back to the owner via PayPal.

If the seafarer does not want their package sent to them, we will keep the package in our facilities until the cruise industry returns to normal and they can collect the packages on a later date.

For more information, our contact information by email is: packages@seafarerspr.org

 

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