Good News Department: Wealthy Couple Demonstrates Compassion and Imagination

This story interests me, especially given the context I live in right now, where I count six heterosexual couples who are wrestling with an identical crisis: the man being seemingly unable to change his ways, and especially to make decisions, which makes the female in the couple liable for a huge daily burden. Odd that such a confluence of couples with the same crisis are in my field . . . and a huge difference from the man in the couple whose present imaginative reach is described below. See Christopher Catambrone’s bio here. Truly a man of action who sees opportunity where others would only see crisis. Not sure about the ethics of all his activities — are some of them making a profit off Empire’s Military Industrial Complex? — and if so, is an action like that described below an effort to salve his conscience? And deeper, is there any way to “make lots of money” without at least tangentially feeding off the MIC?

In any case, it’s wonderful to see such a rich imagination in action, and a couple who steps up to the plate when what is directly in front of them is something that they have the will and the means to address.

Then what? Will they also follow these migrants to land, to help them settle in? And how will that affect resident populations?

And what about this so-called United States? The coming migrations out of California, and possibly, other western states, if the drought continues? The flight from both coasts, as sea levels rise? Who will welcome the pilgrims, some of them penniless, desperate? What is ours, specifically ours to do? On and on. We live together in one crowded, increasingly fractious, chaotic, and yet deeply human world. How each of us responds to what is directly in front of us with what we personally, and in groups, have the will and the means to address, shapes the direction of our common future.

The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) carries out its first rescue in the Mediterranean in August 2014. The Malta-based private rescue service founded by a wealthy American and his Italian wife has rescued more than 3,000 migrants since its launch in August 2014. Image: Barcroft Media /Landov

The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) carries out its first rescue in the Mediterranean in August 2014. The Malta-based private rescue service founded by a wealthy American and his Italian wife has rescued more than 3,000 migrants since its launch in August 2014. Image: Barcroft Media /Landov

 

Christopher Catrambone, a wealthy businessman from Lake Charles, La., docks his boat these days in Malta, the Mediterranean island he now calls home. That boat, called the Phoenix, has been getting outfitted for a series of trips set to begin in May.

But Catrambone and his crew don’t intend to use the Phoenix for luxury cruises. He and his Italian wife, Regina, invested about $8 million of their own money to buy the ship and hire a crew for an entirely different purpose: to save lives at sea.

“Thousands of people are dying,” Catrambone says. “Today, as we stand here we just received news that 10 more migrants died.”

Record numbers of people from the Middle East and Africa are crossing waters to try to get to Europe, and rights groups say European countries don’t do enough to rescue them when they run into trouble at sea.

The millionaire husband-and-wife team decided to take on the task themselves during a recent yacht cruise on the Mediterranean. Regina caught sight of a jacket in the water during the cruise, and when she asked about it, she was told it might belong to a dead migrant who was trying to find safety in Europe.

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Christopher Catrambone stands in front of the Phoenix, the ship that MOAS uses for sea rescues. Image: Leila Fadel/NPR

And that was that. They went on to found the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, which began operations last year.

“We’re the only game in town at the moment,” Christopher Catrambone says.

In just 60 days, they saved about 3,000 migrants crossing the sea in rickety wooden boats or dinghies. They then coordinated with Italy and Malta in bringing the migrants to shore. This year, they’re trying to raise money to operate for six months.

Martin Xuereb, the director of the organization and Malta’s former chief of defense, notes the dire conditions in which they often find these migrants.

“In our first mission [last year] we rescued 271 people, including over 100 women and children from a 12-meter boat that was already taking in water,” Xuereb says. “They’re packed like sardines.”

The boat likely would have sunk, he says.

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A motorboat from the Italian frigate Grecale approaches a boat overcrowded with migrants in the Mediterranean Sea on June 29, 2014. The boat was carrying nearly 600 people, and the remaining 566 survivors were rescued. Image: Italian Navy/AP

While some Europeans criticize the rescue operation, saying it draws more migrants to the sea, Xuereb says that’s just not true. People are desperate, undertaking the journey to find a better life. They deserve to live, he says.

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