The Seamen’s Homes in Greenland have a long history. In the 1950’s the Danish Church Ministry, along with the Church Council of Greenland, expressed a wish to establish a social facility in Greenland, to serve both Danish and Greenlandic craftsmen and sailors. Based on this initiative, a national fundraiser was held in 1956 in Denmark, and it was decided that most of the funds, 180.000 DKK or 25.000 Euros, were to be given to the Danish Seamen’s Mission.
This became the basis on which the National Seamen’s Mission initiated negotiations with the Danish government to collect the necessary appropriations. However, the negotiations move slowly, and stagnated several times over the following years. But in 1965 the vision becomes reality as Member of Parliament, Hans Baagø presents the case in the Danish Parliament, resulting in at granting of the necessary permissions and appropriations. As the financial aspects are settled, the adventure can unfold.
In 1968, the foundation stone is laid down for the Seamen’s Home in Sisimiut, and before the year is over, the National Seamen’s Mission is offered a 1 million DKK purchase of the old Marine Station in Nuuk, only reservation being that it is re-opened as a Seamen’s Home. In 1969, 15.000 sailors would visit Nuuk every year, coming in from all parts of the world, and the opportunities for on-shore accommodation were limited. In 1969 the Seamen’s Homes in both Sisimiut and Nuuk celebrated their inaugurations, with participation from the Prime Minister of Greenland, Hilmar Baunsgaard, the head of the Greenlandic Parliament, Erling Høegh, and several ministers and prominent figures.
The Seamen’s Home in Aasiaat becomes a reality in 1974, as a result of a vision in the Greenlandic Council and the local municipality to open up a seamen’s home in what used to be the Royal Greenlandic Merchant’s Home. In the same year, the Seamen’s Home in Qaqortoq sees the light of day, and in 1975, a new Seamen’s Home sets sail in the town of Qasigiannguit. Finally, the sixth and last Seamen’s Home, in Maniitsoq, weighs anchor in the year 1986.
In all six towns, the realization of a local Seamen’s Home was based on a local vision that came to receive national support. At the inauguration in Nuuk, Prime Minister Hilmar Baunsgaard said the following: ”The Minister of National Affairs and I have taken part in the inauguration of two seamen’s homes in Greenland. On behalf of the government I want to wish them all the best of luck, and give my thanks to the Seamen’s Mission in Denmark, for carrying out this responsibility. The social value of this work is highly appreciated. Creating a home for sailors and fishermen is a work of compassion, and we acknowledge its great value.”
The Seamen’s Homes today
Over the years, the Seamen’s Homes in Nuuk, Aasiaat and Sisimiut have all been modernized and expanded. The user demography has changed, and today the primary customers are conference participants, business people, craftsmen and tourists.
Still, a lot of social work is conducted through the seamen’s homes, and the contact to the local harbors and maritime environment is still alive and active today. In Nuuk, a Seamen’s Missionary has been hired to conduct social work and minister among the locals.