Scottish church keeps ambulances on the road in Zambia

Muriel Gray, mission convener at Hope Park & Martyrs Church in St Andrews, Scotland, with one of the serviced ambulancesMembers of a church in Fife, Scotland, are making a life-saving contribution to Zambia by helping to keep ambulances on the road. 

Rural communities rely on three Toyota Land Cruisers to take them to the Mwandi Mission Hospital in western Zambia.  For some communities, it’s a 75-mile drive away and not only is the terrain very rough, but the roads are pitted with large potholes for much of the way. The four wheel drives have been rendered even more indispensible by the fact that the hospital no longer has a single doctor because funding from the Zambian government has dried up. 

This means that some patients need to be transferred to the next nearest hospital in Livingstone, a nearly three-hour drive away.   Hope Park & Martyrs Church in St Andrews, Scotland, may be thousands of miles away, but it is playing a vital role in keeping the small fleet running.  The congregation is funding the essential maintenance of the three Cruisers, which are also used to deliver vital outreach programmes to rural communities.

Scottish church keeps ambulances on the road in ZambiaThe ambulances were taken off the road because of problems with the vehicles, but thanks to the efforts of Hope Park & Martyrs Church, they are being repaired one by one.

Hope Park has been raising funds for Mwandi Mission Hospital for the last five years.

So far, GBP40,000 has been raised by the congregation, some of which has also been used to buy a Thermocoagulator for treating women with cervical cancer. Other items purchased include staff housing, water tanks and stands used in solar power, and three portable science labs for schools.  The donations will make all the difference as the three ambulances were recently forced off the road because there wasn’t any money available to repair them.

That left families in some instances struggling to pay for taxis. Muriel Gray, mission convener at Hope Park, said it was “unthinkable for there to be no transport for the sick”. “The congregation gives very generously and knows that every penny raised over the last five years goes directly where it is needed,” she said. 

“Vehicle maintenance is an ongoing thing and we have just learned that one of the ambulances has had its gearbox repaired and is back on the road. “Another vehicle is stuck in Mongu with big suspension problems and we are delighted to be helping ensure it is back in service soon.”

Scottish church keeps ambulances on the road in ZambiaModerator the Rt Rev Colin Sinclair visiting the ambulances at the Mwandi Mission Hospital

Mwandi is known as the “cradle of Christianity” in Zambia because of its close connection to Scottish missionary David Livingstone, who stayed there and first preached the Gospel under a camel-thorn tree in 1853. Those links remain strong today, with Colin Sinclair, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, visiting Mwandi Mission Hospital just last week to hear about the challenges it is facing. 

“Since the earliest days of missionaries like Dr David Livingstone, the Scots have been involved in caring for and supporting people across Africa,” he said.

“I am delighted that this generation of Scots, who are working in a different set-up in partnership with the United Church of Zambia, are continuing to care for the people of Zambia through the work of the church.

“I am very pleased that church members in Fife are helping to keep the ambulance service running.”

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