So last week Gaila and I had a chance to meet with Jake Fuchs of Riders for Health (www.riders.org) while we were in Jacksonville FL hanging out with the folks at Sargent Cycle Products (www.sargentcycle.com) getting some of their seats. What a great use of our time on both fronts! Jake is responsible for Communications and Outreach at Riders for Health. We spent several hours over good strong coffee discussing their organization, it’s benefits and how we might be able to help. I was first introduced to Riders for Health by Davied Preston at RideWest BMW (www.ridewest.com) as he has been active with them for years organizing rides and such.
Jake shared with us this great story: http://blogs.motorcyclistonline.com/yamaha-ag200-a-motorcycle-that-saves-lives-29333.html Please click to read the whole article, but here is part of it for a quick read. Gaila and I are both very moved by this charity and the results it is producing. Yes, it helps they are leveraging one of our great passions – motorcycles. But frankly, in this modern era people should not be dying because help cannot get to them.
The Yamaha AG200 makes a great transport vehicle for delivering medical supplies to rural communities with its low operating cost and high reliability.
For much of the developing world, getting from point A to B isn’t as simple as taking off in your car, dodging the occasional pothole, and stopping at one of the dozens of gas stations along the way when you run low on fuel. Paved roads, gas stations, and service centers are a rare luxury in many countries. In rural areas, those things can be completely non-existent. Naturally, that only matters assuming you have access to motorized transport to begin with, which 70% of the rural population of Africa does not. If you live in rural Africa and you want to go somewhere, you’ll most likely be walking there.
This can be a real problem if you’re sick. Half the people in developing countries live more than five miles away from the nearest health facility. Five miles is a lengthy walk when you’re healthy, far worse when you’re ill. Why wouldn’t you call for an ambulance? A good idea, except for the fact that the ambulance likely broke down last week, and there’s no technician or parts around to fix it. Health workers are ready to help; they just can’t reach you.
Riders for Health founders Barry and Andrea Coleman, along with former GP racer Randy Mamola, first encountered this problem in the late 1980s while working to raise funds to benefit children in developing countries. On several trips to Africa, they repeatedly came across vehicles intended for the delivery of health services that were discarded prematurely due to a lack of basic maintenance and parts. In some cases, the vehicles were nearly new and only needed a $3 part to get them running again. It became quickly apparent that the largest obstacle to improving health in the developing world was not a deficit of charity but rather a misunderstanding of the problem.
Bikes go through routine maintenance to prevent breakdowns.
They set about creating programs specifically targeted at overcoming challenges in delivering health care to rural areas of developing countries. As people who spent their whole lives around motorcycles, they recognized that the cost effectiveness and durability of bikes like the Yamaha AG200 held real potential. At the same time, they understood that any vehicle, no matter how well suited for the conditions, was only as good as the service that maintained it. If skilled hands and parts weren’t around to keep the bike running, it became little more than a poignant visual reminder of a missed opportunity to bring lasting benefit to the people it was intended to help. Consequently, their efforts focused not just on providing vehicles, but largely on empowering local people with the tools and training they needed to make sure that those vehicles kept working. That way, health workers could count on being able to reach remote communities with life-saving services every day.
Today, Riders mobilizes health workers in eight African countries. The organization maintains over 1000 vehicles and employs 300 local staff that perform an array of functions from program and logistics management, to service technicians, to medical sample couriers. Riders manages nationwide programs in The Gambia and Lesotho, and regional programs in Nigeria, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi, Riders operates smaller grassroots programs that aim to increase the reach of local care-giving groups. As a social enterprise, Riders forms partnerships in all of its programs with health providing organizations. Its partners range in size from the United Nations and national ministries of health to small, community organizations like the Diocese of Masasi in Tanzania.
As I post this we are also reviewing the possibility of their program ‘Experience Africa’ that would give us a chance to go over there and provide financial assistance and meet with the actual participants and beneficiaries. How cool would that be? If we do head down this path, we will probably begin an official fundraising activity, but more on that later. - Tad