On December 21, 2020, Steve and Janet Randall started a GoFundMe page. The goal of the page was simple in theory: to provide relief to small group of Silversea crew members who were unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The small group consisted of 200 employees who worked less than four months in 2020. The group consisted of the lowest paid Silversea employees, such as dishwashers, and other crew who work behind the scenes.
As of January 4th, an initial goal of $66,000 was reached which covered a US$250 donation to each of the 200 crew members mentioned above. This donation is meant to cover one month of rent, food, and transportation for the crew members. The Randalls give a breakdown of estimated monthly living costs in the Philippines and India, where most of these crew members live, on their GoFundMe page.
Though a $250 wage may seem small for those of us in the US, let’s look at what an impact this could make according to the Randalls’ breakdown:
As of this writing, the initial goal 0f the fundraiser has been nearly doubled with donations currently exceeding $120,000. On top of the funds raised by Silversea’s past guests, Silversea Cruises donated US$70,000 to assist with efforts.
At almost two months into the campaign, there is still a lot of activity from both the Randalls and their donors. One of the comments on the GoFundMe page states that an artist was selling her paintings for the cause stating: “I donated because Enrieta C Azad kindly offered some of her paintings for sale in support of this worthy cause. I have purchased Glaciers Come for my Husbands Valentines Day present by making this donation. Big shout out for Enrieta and her generosity.”
Most of the comments on the fundraiser page praise Silversea’s “wonderful” and “fabulous” crew. Not only is this fundraiser a testament to the close bond of Silversea guests and crew, but also a testament to the close bond of Silversea passengers. The campaign currently has over 3,500 shares and has been shared numerous times within the Silversea Passengers’ Facebook page, which houses over 5,800 members.
To view Steve Randall’s GoFundMe page, or to make a contribution to the crew, click here.
Read an interview with Steve Randall from Silversea’s blog below:
Q: For 21 years, you've traveled practically all over the world with Silversea. How would you describe the crew?
They are just wonderful people. During the 21 years that my wife and I have been sailing with Silversea, we've formed very personal relationships with many crew members. I relate Silversea and its crew to a family business. One of the things we've probably all experienced is being a customer or a patron of a family business. The way the crew conducts itself, it's like everybody is a stakeholder and they always foster a "welcome home" environment. The longevity of some of the people that have worked with Silversea is astounding; some of them are second generation crew members. I've always felt that there is a unique relationship that has always existed between the guests and the crew.
How did this fundraising effort come about?
It has been an interesting journey. Obviously over 21 years, my wife and I have met a large amount of crew. Reading constantly the trials and tribulations of what's going on in the cruise ship industry, and staying in touch with many crew members via social media and text messages, we wanted to do something to help. I'm in constant communication with Fernando (Barroso de Oliveira, Silversea's Senior Cruise Director & President's Ambassador to the Venetian Society), and in one of those conversations we talked about the difficulties that our crew member friends face while the ships remain grounded.
And as we reminisced about the friendly faces we've come to know over the years, Fernando mentioned all of those crew members that no one ever sees. We all know the butlers, the waiters, the maître d's, etc., but what about the people behind the scenes that get no notoriety, like the dishwashers or the laundry workers? So that got me thinking that this effort should be universal, following a fair system of fund allocation that is based on income, starting with the lowest tiers. I then researched platforms that could provide this service and I ended up selecting GoFundMe. As a longtime marketing person, I basically knew my way around the platform, so it was a good match.
What I didn't know was what the response would be.
How has it been?
When we launched the campaign, my wife and I decided to donate $500. Not that we were expecting that to be the average donation, but what happened afterwards was truly inspiring. After 21 years and seven world cruises and knowing so many people, I obviously have my own stable of Silversea guests that I reached out to, and they all matched and even exceeded our donation.
We hit US$10,000 in just six hours! Initially, we set the fundraising goal at $80,000 and we recently raised it to $100,000, having already surpassed that benchmark.
I also wanted to make sure people could donate anonymously. One of the reasons for this is to send the message that no donation is too small. One of the approaches I used to try to stimulate the donors was to send them out information about what US$250 buys in the Philippines, for example. With the current exchange rate, you get approximately 12,000 Philippine pesos. And for a little over 400 pesos, they can get a bus transportation pass for an entire month.
The other reason why I wanted to have an anonymous donation option is that there are some high-profile people that have donated, for example, $1000. While I make certain that every donation is responded to, I make a point of saying that we will of course honor your anonymity.
Have you heard back from crew members who have benefitted from this campaign?
Yes, we've received a tremendous amount of text messages thanking us for this effort, and not just from people that have received aid. One person said they went to the church and told the monsignor about the effort, and they are saying a special prayer. Another one sent me a message saying that they are working on a t-shirt for my wife and myself. There isn't a day that goes by that we don't get a thank you note. And I tell them, don't thank us. My wife and I may be the campaign organizers, but the people to thank are the people that you have served for all of these years, and that's the Venetian Society members.
And what have you heard from other Venetian Society members?
My wife is the person who constantly keeps up with these Facebook messages. When we do the postings on the Silversea Passengers Group, she is always responding. And they come in all day long, from other VS members thanking us for organizing this. Some people will come in with suggestions; it's great.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
One thing that has been challenging is delivering the message beyond what I like to call the "World Cruise constituency." Because of the large percentage of repeat guests on a world cruise, having been on seven of them consecutively, I literally see 70 percent of the same people all the time, and while these dear friends have generously supported the cause, my hope is to be able to reach beyond this constituency.
So I'm looking forward to reaching out to those folks who have maybe traveled a few times with Silversea or prefer shorter cruises, because I know for a fact that these people have also developed personal relationships over the years with crew members and would like to help.
Also, another challenge we've faced is that there are so many people out there who avoid Facebook or don't have any exposure to Facebook at all. So, I've been trying to encourage people to share the GoFundMe link via email. And thankfully that has been successful.
Where do you hope to travel to once service resumes?
Typically, I always say a couple of places. Venice, for one; Janet and I are just in love with the city. We're booked on the World Cruise for 2022. There are also places we haven't been to on the expedition side. Galapagos, for example, as well as Iceland and Greenland. I also love South Africa. But I guess, if I had to pick one country, it's Italy. One of my favorite places in Italy is Positano. And, of course, I hope to return to Manila so we may distribute chocolates and candy again!
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