Motorcycles Can Save Lives!

  • Riders for Health

So last week Gaila and I had a chance to meet with Jake Fuchs of Riders for Health ( while we were in Jacksonville FL hanging out with the folks at Sargent Cycle Products ( 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 ( as he has been active with them for years organizing rides and such.

Jake shared with us this great story:  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.

Riders for Health, shot in Zambia and Zimbabwe 17-29 May 2010

Most of us would agree that motorcycles  make us feel better. Flying unencumbered over the road on the backs of our bikes  elevates the soul as well as the body. Whacking open the throttle and tearing  through the air can’t help but put a smile on our wind-whipped faces. Yet while  many of us look to motorcycles as a recreational remedy to life’s daily  troubles, few of us realize that they have the ability to actually save lives.  Riders for Health is an international non-profit whose work demonstrates every  day that the healing power of motorcycles goes well beyond spiritual.

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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.

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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.

Read more:

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


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One Comment

  1. Beth Frisken

    Very Cool Tad! I have a client that is a young woman who started a Medical Clinic in a remote area of Kenya as part of her University program – MED25 International. I know that transportation can be very challenging there. I will let her know about this group.

    One of the things her organization is setting up is what I would call a “purposeful vacation” package, which sounds similar to what the group you wrote about is doing and I know there are others that do it as well. The basic premise is that as a volunteer you pay them a fee to go and volunteer for them. What you get in return is a place to stay, and meals, and the opportunity to do some very meaningful and much needed work. A portion of the fee is a donation above the costs of your stay, and the whole fee is a charitable tax deduction.

    Sounds like you guys are having lots and lots of fun!!


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