Seafarers UK is a large national charity in the United Kingdom working to unite the maritime charity sector to address the specific needs of all seafarers and their families, from those just embarking on a career at sea to those facing distress through unemployment or homelessness and loss of livelihood through accidents at sea.
Seafarers UK is able to use its experience of working with the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy and fishing fleets to raise money and distribute it where it is needed. As an umbrella, Seafarers UK can lead the sector in maximising the effectiveness of its fundraising activities. Over the past 10 years, £26 million has been granted to help those in need of support.
Seafarers UK runs several very successful challenge events. Their most successful is the 24 Peaks Challenge which has run since 2006. This is probably one of the most demanding and exhilarating mountain events organised as a charity challenge and the ultimate team building experience. In the beautiful surroundings of the Lake District teams of around 6 climb 24 peaks, all over 2,400 feet in just 24 hours. In addition to the physical challenge, each team is asked to raise at least £5,000 which is then used to provide essential support to those in need within the maritime community.
The First World War took a terrible toll on merchantmen and warships: in one fortnight in 1917 many thousands of sailors and over 400,000 tons of shipping were lost. Many of those men had a family to support, and towards the end of the war many small charitable organisations were set up to support the injured and bereaved.
In the City of London, far-sighted ship-owners and officers realised that what was most needed was an umbrella organisation that could take a realistic overview of the need and direct resources to where they were needed. They set up a Fund for that purpose and His Majesty George V took a deep and immediate interest, giving both his name and an establishing donation of £5000 to the new organisation.
During subsequent conflicts, and in the intervening years of peace, King George's Fund continued to provide both immediate and long-term support to the casualties of war, and to others who have paid a high price for a life at sea.
They have always supported veterans, the injured and the bereaved, but were set up as an umbrella charity to attend to the needs of the whole maritime community. In the modern world that means we deal with homelessness, unemployment, the strain on separated families, the poverty and hardship that afflict shoreline communities when fish stocks dwindle and merchant vessels grow too large for local docks.
In the summer of 2005 the Fund decided to adopt a new identity. They want to make it clear to everyone that they work for all seafarers throughout the country. For public work they have therefore adopted the name Seafarers UK.