Monday, 15 April 2013

Supporting the renovation of the Chauncy Maples hospital ship in Malawi

Big swims are often done to raise money and publicity for a good cause. My English Channel crossing in 2011 aimed to raise money and awareness for the Centre for Injury Prevention and  Research Bangladesh (CIPRB) and their fight against the epidemic of children drowning in that country by providing swimming lessons in villages and slums on a fairly massive scale. 

It took me a little thinking to find a suitable cause to support in Malawi. Not that there is a lack of needs and consequently worthy causes to support in a country as poor as Malawi of course. But I prefer the cause and the swim to be somehow thematically related, and to always have children benefit from it. This worked out wonderfully in 2011. But drowning seems to be much less of a problem in Malawi, in spite of the many people living on the shores of the enormous Lake Malawi.
Widening the thematic relationship with water, I thought of the fight against bilharzia/schistosomiasis, a widespread and potentially very debilitating, even deadly disease among the population of Lake Malawi's shores (I suffered a bad case of infestation with this parasite myself once in 2008). Widening the issue even more, the issue of health care in general for the population living around the lake, often in remote villages far away from health centers, came to mind.

After a call for ideas by email through the professional network of a friend of a friend, I was contacted by Janie Hampton, a British author. Janie is also the founder of the Chauncy Maples Malawi Trust, which aims to renovate Africa's oldest motor powered ship, the Chauncy Maples, back into a clinic to serve Lake Malawi's mostly very poor shore dwellers. Renovation is well underway, with more than half of the funds already secured both through corporate and private sponsors. It is a cause that satisfies my criterion that the cause should be related to water, and there is no doubt that especially children will benefit in a major way from improved health care that will come to them instead of the inverse. Janie informed me that in due course the clinic, once up and running, will contribute also to the eradication of bilharzia in Lake Malawi. Finally, the fact that there is a clear link between the ship and Malawi's colonial history on the one hand (David Livingstone was from Scotland) and the destination of my swim on the other hand, is an additional element that Janie and I hope will pay fundraising dividends. 

It is worth checking out the following videos about the Chauncy Maples project on Youtube, first one from 2010, explaining the history of the ship and the project:

and this one from 2012, with more information on the renovation process:

I refer to the Chauncy Maples website for further information on the project. I am very pleased and proud for my North Channel endeavour to be associated with this great cause. I set up a fundraising page on, and hope you will visit it.

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