A movement that came out of motorcycle racing
One day in the mid-1980s Randy Mamola, a successful young motorcycle racer decided that riding around in circles, however much fun for him and the spectators, wasn’t quite enough. Randy along with good friends from the motorcycle community: Barry Coleman, journalist and novelist, and Andrea Coleman an ex-motorcycle racer and publicist, started to think about how motorcycle racing could do something to make a difference in the World.
After witnessing the neglect of vehicles used to deliver health care on a visit to Africa, it became clear to them that access to health care for rural communities was failing. The explanation for this woeful situation was simple. Vehicles for delivering health care were broken and no one was trained to solve the problem. So. people could not be reached with basic services that people like them who lived in developed countries, take for granted. People were dying of easily preventable and curable disease.
Riders is formed
In 1986 the friends founded Riders for Health (soon to become known as Riders). It’s aim was to find ways of getting healthcare to remote communities in Africa. In order to get that care delivered they would use motorcycles in a managed system.
It was a huge challenge. The motorcycles would have to be maintained – a wildly difficult proposition in rural Africa – many riders would have to be trained, fuel would have to be reliably supplied and replacement parts would need a supply chain stretching from places as far reaching as Tokyo in Japan to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.
And so fundraising began. First of all with Day of Champions, a fundraising event as part of the British motorcycle Grand Prix weekend. The first one took place at Brands Hatch in 1989 and it was followed by all kinds of other fundraising activities led by Jeanette Wragg and a dedicated group of volunteers. Without them and without the generosity and commitment of the teams and riders in MotoGP™ none of this would have been possible.
Success in Africa
The work of training and establishing local teams on the African continent started. First of all in Lesotho and The Gambia. Riders built a fleet of 47 bikes in Lesotho that delivered health-care services from 1991 to 1996 without a single breakdown. This reduced the disease and illnesses by getting patients much-needed medicine. Riders expanded into Ghana, Zimbabwe and Nigeria and diversified its fleet to include refrigerated trucks, minivans and ambulances and introduced a motorcycle ambulance fitted with a sidecar called the Uhuru that can also be used as a water pump.
By 2015 Riders was operating in seven countries, working with local governments to have a huge impact on health care in those countries. Now change could be seen. Governments and agencies finally had a solution to delivering healthcare. If they wanted to run an immunisation programme or disease prevention programme they could knowing the transport could be reliably run by Riders!
A new approach – and Two Wheels is born
In 2016 year Riders made a big change. They shut the UK offices employing 30+ staff, reducing staff costs and making the transport management part of the organisation African owned and led. Riders’ programmes in Africa are run entirely by nationals of those countries. A huge achievement and not one that many non-African NGOs have succeeded in.
Two Wheels for Life was established in the same year, 2016, to take over the fundraising activities in a smaller, cheaper and more agile team, and to continue to support Riders operations. By splitting of programme management the UK and US based team could dedicate themselves solely to fundraising and highlighting the problem that lack of transport creates.
Two Wheels for Life’s aim is to grow a global movement across the world of motorsport and beyond to support transport to save lives in Africa. Our next chapter will be to help Riders’ increase motorcycle courier services for diagnosis, vaccine delivery and health care monitoring and surveillance.