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The Chauncy Maples Project

chauncy maplesThe Jo Walters Trust has given a grant of £3,500 to the Chauncy Maples Project, which is aimed at bringing health care to one of the poorest communities in the world by renovating Africa’s oldest motor ship, the "Chauncy Maples", based on Lake Malawi.  The Trustees of JWT were concerned to find out that the life expectancy in Malawi is between 44 and 50 years and that the only real means of getting around the lake is still by dug-out canoe, risking the dangerous currents, storms and crocodiles.

According to Mark Holford, Director of the Chauncy Maples Project, poverty in the region is a huge problem with most of the population earning less than a 65 pence per day.  The statistic that really stuck though, was that the under-five death rate is 111 per 1,000 live births.  There simply is no real medical care in the region and only one doctor for every 52,000 people.  The project aims to change all of this and the Chauncy Maples ship renovation will allow more people to have access to medical care – especially for those Malawians living along the lakeside who have little or no access to medical attention. 

The renovation of the Chauncy Maples is progressing well at a cost of £2 million and she is due to be launched in 2014.  You can find a project update here.  She was built in Glasgow in 1899 and was designed as a clinic ship.  How she got to Malawi is another story completely! You can read about this here.  She last sailed over a decade ago and it was not until the Government of Malawi became involved and, with the help of the Chauncy Maples Trust, the project got underway . This plan is to completely renovate her, modernise the equipment onboard and to restore her prominently as a floating clinic with an on-board medical team providing treatment for diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, measles and HIV/AIDS. Other services will include ante-natal and maternity care, simple operations, dental care, child immunisation, family-planning and advice on safe sex. 

The project has received very good publicity in the City of London amongst the marine industry, where one of our Trustees works.  Grants from the JWT have to be in support of one of the underlying criteria for charitable donations, namely to support projects through sport, outward bound, educational and environmental projects, both at home and abroad.  The Trustees have carefully considered the requirements of the ship and what any potential donation could best be used towards.  If you are interested, a full inventory of the equipment that is still required can be found here. After some consideration, The Trustees concluded that a donation from the JWT could go towards providing the battery bank for the Chauncy Maples. 

By now you are probably thinking, why would we make a donation toward batteries?  This may not sound the most exciting donation that we have ever made but read on as the implications are wide reaching.

The batteries will allow electricity to be stored onboard that will power everything from lighting, navigation systems, powering the computers onboard to store patients records and providing power for the communications systems and broadband internet access for the ship.  The ability for the medical team onboard to communicate with the outside world will allow them to keep up-to-date with best medical practice and have access to the internet, which fulfils the educational requirement for the JWT.

By storing energy in batteries generated by the photovoltaic cells onboard and mounted on the roof of the Chauncy Maples, this will reduce the requirement for the ships' main engine and two generators to be run all the time.  In turn this will reduce the amount of diesel fuel consumed and reduce the pollution from the diesel engines lowering the carbon footprint for the project.  This fulfils the environmental aspect for the JWT.

Finally, in terms of making a real difference, the monetary contribution from JWT may only be relatively small but the Chauncy Maples will deliver medical care to a population of some 300,000 people as the ship carries out her monthly rotation along the lake’s coast, covering and serving a different village every day.  In terms of impact, we hope you agree that this has the potential to go along way to helping a great many people.

On a personal note, everyone who knoew Jo, knew that she was full of energy and it seems very fitting that she should continue to be a source of energy benefitting so many other people's lives.  Our contribution continues her workm and we are really quite taken with the idea of knowing that somewhere on a ship in Africa, there is a small piece of Jo bobbing about making a big difference.

Aaron Hanse of AB Film Unit visited Lake Malawi last year and made a short video about the restoration of the Chauncy Maples.  If you have any comments about the video, please get in touch with the Chauncy Maples project via their contact page.


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