Suitcases full of skivvies

Catch the Wave cruise passengers turn the idea of service on its head

Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2009

Plates, jeans, jackets, hats: Used is as good as new when you're down on your luck.

But there are exceptions.

So when Janice Davis, who is coordinating a group fundraising trip to Juneau, asked Glory Hole director Mariya Lovishchuk what new items she needed at the downtown homeless shelter and soup kitchen, underwear quickly sprung to mind.

Lovishchuk had been thinking about the topic. Earlier that day she'd been asked to provide a pair, but she couldn't.

"This request was not a single request - clients are always looking for that, and for socks," she said.

Davis is in a unique position to fulfill Lovishchuk's request. She's helping to mobilize the combined forces of a group of 550 travelers from all over the world, all of them prepared to fill their suitcases with whatever donations they are asked to bring.

Davis works for North South Travel, a company that produces and markets a cruise ship based project called Catch the Wave. Catch the Wave brings together people from different faiths and backgrounds in a cooperative goal: To address a need in their destination port. The need is identified through speaking with people who live there, and can range from very specific items, such as the first aid kits that were delivered to St. Lucia on a recent trip, to more general goods. The idea is for passengers to bring one suitcase for themselves and one full of items that will be given away in the port city.

Their trips can also be vocation-based: An upcoming "doctors at sea" mission will send doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to the Caribbean to set up a one-day medical clinic in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

Davis said in addition to providing donations and aid, the group wants to reinvent tourism by showing that cruise ship passengers can serve others, and not just be served.

Catch the Wave will also host a free jazz concert June 30 when the group stops in Juneau. Locals are invited to come enjoy the professional musicians from 5-8 p.m. in Marine Park, and are encouraged to bring their own donations of underwear (new of course), bras, undershirts and socks.

"People think of the Glory Hole and they think food and shelter, but we do provide other services, ... and our clothing program is one of the most important programs we have," Lovishchuk said. "Underwear, I think, is pretty important."

Socks are also in demand, as clients often have only a few well-worn pairs, or are wearing uncomfortable, heavy wool ones in the middle of summer.

"If we can get enough of this stuff to share with AWARE and (St. Vincent DePaul), we won't have to worry about it for a whole winter," Lovishchuk said.

Monetary donations are also welcome at the concert, she said, as are donations of coffee. Individual donations are way down this year compared to last year, she said. From May 15 to June 15 last year, individual donations totaled $5,329. During that same time period this year, the total was $1,413.

Individual donations are especially important to the shelter because they can be used for anything from food to employee wages, whereas grant money is often limited to a specific project.

Churches also are an important source of local contributions, and Lovishchuk said that Catch the Wave's emphasis on bringing people of different faiths together for a common purpose dovetails with the Glory Hole's experience in working with local churches of various denominations. Two local churches, Crossroads and Northern Light United Methodist church, are helping Catch the Wave on this project.

In addition to their stop in Juneau, Catch the Wave will visit Ketchikan, where they will deliver donations of rain gear, a need identified by the Native group that Davis is working with there.

Davis' company, North South Travel, based in Vancouver, B.C., is a secular organization that produces and markets Catch the Wave events. A core group of about a hundred members have gone on each of the trips since the project was launched five years ago. Though many different faiths are represented, the group is largely Christian.

"Not everybody is going to be a missionary in Africa ... (but) they can, when they're on vacation, give a day," Davis said.

The group benefits offered by the cruise lines fund some aspects of the projects, though individual donations are paid for by the passengers themselves. Different cruise-ship companies are used by the group; the trip to Juneau will be aboard the Sapphire Princess.

Davis said the cruise ship model serves a dual purpose: It provides the infrastructure needed to transport large groups of people and their donations, and it allows participants to get a break from their daily lives.

"It's a chance for people to relax while not completely taking," she said.

Trending this week:


© 2018. All Rights Reserved.  | Contact Us