23 Jul 2013

Metres for Malawi - rowing contest to raise Africa's oldest ship

Chauncy Maples Malawi TrustRowers from across the world will soon be gathering in Spitalfields Market, London for a rowing contest with a difference.

With not a drop of water in sight, this September 100 crews will row a million metres – the circumference of Lake Malawi – on rowing machines in a bid to raise £1m for the Chauncy Maples Malawi Trust.

From Oxford to Malawi

Set up by Oxford-based historian, Janie Hampton, widely regarded as a leading authority on the social history of the Olympics, the Chauncy Maples Malawi Trust was founded in 2009. The trust was created to support the renovation of Africa’s oldest ship: turning The Chauncy Maples into a floating clinic for Lake Malawi.

The ship was launched in 1901 in memory of Oxford missionary Chauncy Maples. An Oxford student, Chauncy Maples went to Malawi as part of the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa, and in 1895 was ordained as a bishop.

Tragically, not long after, he drowned in Lake Malawi during a violent storm. Fellow missionaries returned to Oxford and set about raising funds to build and launch the SS Chauncy Maples in his honour.

Refloating the Chauncy Maples

A chance holiday encounter for Janie Hampton led to the creation of the Chauncy Maples Malawi Trust. She said: “There are no roads or clinics for the villagers who live there and I heard that the Malawian government was keen to get this mobile clinic up and running when I was on holiday there.”

The funds will be used to renovate the ship and turn it into a floating mobile clinic, serving the fishing villages in the north-west who have no access to health services.

One of the ten poorest nations in the world, Malawi has a life expectancy of just 50 years. For those living on the lake shoreline, there are no roads and no access to healthcare. Their only means of transport is a dug-out canoe, risking the dangerous currents, storms and crocodiles.

What started with £50 round a kitchen table, has to date raised over £1.5million thanks to the support of the global marine insurance company, Thomas Miller of London.

With an end target of £2.5million to float the boat, innovative fundraising is needed. Thomas Miller introduced the idea of ‘The Big Row’ and invited teams from all over the world to compete.

Metres for millions

The fundraiser aims to raise a target of epic proportions: £1 million. It is therefore crucial that every penny raised goes to the Chauncy Maples Project.

The team hopes to reach this target with the support of MyDonate. With 100 team fundraising pages to be enlisted onto the platform, they hope to reach the mark.

For Janie, every penny is vital. She said: “There is no commission: the project gets to keep all of the donations, plus the gift aid.”

A £1 million target is ambitious but possible. To boost this, The Big Row has secured the support of Angela Rippon. Other patrons include Matthew Pinsent, the High Commissioner of Malawi, Katie Derham, Admiral Lord West of Spithead and Roz Savage, ocean rower.

You can support The Big Row

For more information about the Chauncy Maples project visit their dedicated website

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