Tea & Water Pictures

Mariella Furrer

Phelophepa Health Train

The Phelophepa Health Train II, stops in a Wincanton, a small town in the Eastern Cape, close to large mining communities.

The Phelophepa Health Train, meaning Train of Hope, began operating in 1994. The train travels to rural areas in South Africa for 36 weeks of the year, reaching as many as 280,000 patients. Consisting of 18 carriages, equipped with modern medical appliances, a fully stocked pharmacy, 19 full-time staff members and approximately 37 volunteer students, it provides primary healthcare services, eye and dental care, screening for diabetes and cancer, as well a psychological counselling services. Phelophepa also has a community outreach programme where it provides basic training in HIV/AIDS prevention to rural areas via local schools and communities in the surrounding areas.

On this trip, forty students volunteered. They included fifth year and final year dental students from Wits University in Johannesburg, fourth and final year nursing students from the University of Johannesburg and Psychology students and optometry students in their fourth and final year from the University of KwaZulu Natal.

The Phelophepa Health Train belongs to the Transnet Foundation. Transnet, the company, is a large South African rail, port and pipeline company. The healthcare service is a result of a partnership with Telkom, international pharmaceuticals company, Roche, Colgate-Palmolive South Africa and several universities. A second train was launched in 2012.

In 2008 it was awarded the United Nations Public Service Award in the ‘Improving Service Delivery’ category.

Mariella Furrer