Voyage of hope
An old navy ship has been refurbished to provide health care to remote areas
Voyage of hope
Follow the journey of a hospital ship sailing from Scotland to Africa
By Contributor profile

Kieron Allen

Kieron Allen

In September last year, after a courageous 8,585 mile (13, 816 km) journey, the hospital ship Jubilee Hope finally arrived in Mwanza on Lake Victoria, Tanzania, 246 days after leaving port in Scotland.

The epic voyage was organised by a Scottish charity called the Vine Trust who, with the help of defence and aerospace company BAE Systems, converted the old Royal Navy ship into a floating medical centre.

Jubilee Hope received an official send off from Glasgow

It’s amazing what the team have been able to do in such a small space. On board Jubilee Hope there is a dental surgery, an operating theatre, consulting rooms, an eye hospital and a laboratory.

The trip was far from plain sailing. Just a few weeks into the voyage Jubilee Hope came into difficulty and was forced to stop in Cornwall for three weeks as winter storms battered the coast line. Almost all of the crew were sea sick!

They soon made up for lost time and arrived in Kenya early in May last year, but this was by no means the end of the journey.

Unfortunately it’s impossible to sail all the way up the River Nile because of the dams in place, so the crew of Jubilee Hope were forced to take the long way round, sailing her all the way down the west coast of Africa, past the Cape and back up to Mombasa in Kenya on the east coast.

Running aground

Whilst in port, Jubilee Hope had to be taken apart, with workmen removing the top half of the boat so it could fit below low hanging power lines on a 500 mile (800 km) road trip to the shores of Lake Victoria. 

The overland leg of the journey - over 200 miles from Nairobi to Kisumu

On the way, the team had to fill in pot holes and towards the end of the journey they even had to rebuild a section of road that had been washed away during heavy rains.

Once in Kismu, a town on the Kenyan border of Lake Victoria, a team of marine engineers and local volunteers reassembled the ship and sailed the final leg of the voyage to Jubilee Hope’s ultimate destination, the isolated town of Mwanza.

Hope is successfully reassembled and re-floated on Lake Victoria

The project was officially launched by Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal at a ceremony in Mwanza on 1 October 2014.

“This is a huge achievement launched as a special initiative for Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. There were a number of Diamond Jubilee Projects, but few that will reach such a number of people,’’ she said.

The Jubilee Hope project is gathering pace and the ship will now stay in service as a floating hospital for the next 20 years, providing medical care to the 400,00 people who live on remote islands around the lake.

Some of the facilities on board Jubilee Hope

Current  spoke to Kenny Holt from the Vine Trust about how things were going on board. “We are working closely with our national partners in the final stages of the set-up phase of the programme, with our first trips to the islands planned for March,” he said.

‘’It’s exciting to see everything come together and to know that people living in the remote communities will have access to vital health care services.”